Let us Be Reborn in the Spirit
Often we talk of a “good team spirit” or of a spirit that is lacking in some situation. People are enthusiastic and committed or bored and disinterested. An angry spirit shows something is not right. In such a sense it has to do with an atmosphere, a mood, something not quite identifiable but that can be felt nevertheless.
In Africa we could call a good spirit moya. We use that seSotho word for the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit of love who inspires, who guides and comforts.
The Church teaches that the gift of the presence of the Spirit is received in baptism, and confirmed at confirmation. Each Pentecost he can be invited to renew his gifts to us.
Even at other times we pray the prayer for a renewal of the Spirit and some groups believe more strongly that we need to be reborn in the Spirit to live life to the full as Jesus promised.
In 1994 the United Nations invited the nations of the world to commemorate the 1st International Year of the Family. Because of the importance of families in society, it was agreed to hold an annual International Day for Families on May 15 with a specially chosen focus theme.
Countries, churches and other institutions as well as families in their homes can reflect on how things are and consider how they could “build homes of merciful love”, as Marfam invites in 2016.
The official 2016 International Family Day theme is “Families, healthy lives and sustainable future” (or the longer version “Promote healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”). This is in fact Sustainable Development Goal 3.
The UN writes: “Families remain at the centre of social life ensuring the wellbeing of their members, educating and socialising children and youth and caring for young and old. From a policy perspective, taking families into account in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals has a potential to speed up the achievements of many targets relating to individuals’ wellbeing.”
It goes on to say that where there are policies they need to be implemented effectively.
In South Africa there are national priorities too for strengthening families. The Department for Social Development works with this in conjunction with other departments, but we, on the ground or in our homes, all need to be part of that.
We can do this through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe that this spirit is also a family spirit. We all know when there is a good atmosphere, a good or happy or at times also a negative atmosphere in our homes. Maybe the Spirit is present or has been chased away because we are not practising mercy in our relationships.The Spirit offers us his gifts. We identify them as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. We could even add mercy as a gift of the Spirit this year.
As individuals or in families, which of these gifts are most needed for ourselves and to build our homes, our little domestic churches, of merciful love where we live healthy lives and plan as best we can for our future?
The fruits of the gifts such as love, peace and joy will show us how God is present.
Families can pray for the Spirit’s guidance during this Year of Mercy as Pope Francis does: “May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy” (The Face of Mercy, 2015).