An Abiding Presence: Gentleness and Reverence – Sixth Sunday of Easter 2020


One of the common elements of the scripture readings in these weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday is the promise of the Spirit. We are assured that God will send an Advocate, to be with you forever.

John reminds us today that we know that Spirit of truth, because he abides with you, and will be in you. Peter reminds us in his First Letter about the importance of holding on to gentleness and reverence in our telling others about our experience of the hope that is within us.

That is very significant advice for passing on the Good News of the Gospel – gentleness and reverence.

One of the less attractive elements of our Christian history of evangelization is precisely the opposite. How often over the centuries – even to this day – have over zealous believers hammered others over the head with what they have encountered of the Spirit of Christ!

Gentleness has often been in short supply. What about reverence? That, too, has been lacking at times, especially as Christian ministers have judged and condemned the faith life of those they view as inferior. We don’t need too many examples from the various Christian denominations. They are rife, starting with our own Catholic Church.

The Spirit deals with us by means of that gentleness and reverence. Take a moment to get in touch with your own journey of faith. Think back to your original teachers and guides. Think of the men and women who have nurtured your faith throughout your life.

It’s probably helpful to think especially of who your mentors have been in times of crisis. They could be living or dead people, saints and writers who are long dead or who still enlighten us. Perhaps it’s a favourite photograph or painting or piece of music. An interesting question is who we turn to in times of crisis such as we are living with COVID-19.

I’m sure that many of us are turning to the spiritual equivalent of comfort food. What is the place where you find that kind of comfort in these days? I would suspect that gentle and reverent people have nurtured you more than by the opposite. God treats us with those qualities. It certainly behoves us to treat others in the same way.

My experience of the spiritual journey, and accompanying others on their unique journeys, is that the sense of abiding referred to by the Evangelist doesn’t happen in our passivity, but by striving to be attentive, by acts of intentional consciousness of God’s abiding presence in words or music or experiences.

Careful listening and paying attention require energy and commitment from us. We know that kind of increased attentiveness as a form of prayer. It’s the kind of increased alertness that we are reminded of so often in the Gospels. Stay awake!

One final thought: the isolation and lack of routine of these days can create a sort of spiritual slumber. It’s possible that it is precisely in this time of crisis that the Spirit is revealing new things to us.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 02:10h, 17 May Reply

    A beautiful, deeply reflective article on our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The place where I have found particular comfort, solace and especially answers to my teeming questions about an important decision I had to make is through reading and meditating on the the Words of Scripture. It has been a wonderful experience especially reading through John’s Gospel. I asked the questions, and happily found the answers I so longed to hear. And it was not just wishful thinking! Thank you Philip.

  • Gabrielle Feuvrier
    Posted at 04:11h, 17 May Reply

    thanks so much Philip for such helpful thoughts

  • Esther Gilbert
    Posted at 07:44h, 17 May Reply

    So important. This is sharing of the good news of the Gospel to me. Listening is active. Be awake

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 11:15h, 17 May Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 18:37h, 17 May Reply

    Yes. Striving to be attentive.
    Thanks Philip.

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 01:31h, 18 May Reply

    “Spiritual slumber”! That’s what that is! Thanks Fr. Shano! I found myself in that state, wandering around in a kind of slumber and tried to name it. Thank God, it clears! That blessed presence is such a gift, especially in this time with Covid and with aloneness!

    Thank you, Fr. Shano!

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