Fr Troy Bobbin
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Spiritual Advisor
In our first Congress Reflection we dwelt on the image of God as a patient and careful potter who walks with us, individually and collectively, to help us develop to our fullest potential as members of a spiritual movement for social justice. In keeping with this powerful metaphor, it is useful to reflect on the opportunities God uses to melt us and mould us anew. This is why we seek the wisdom of the Spirit to be alert to God’s work in our hearts. The truth is that the journey of melting and moulding is often painful as well as rewarding. To use a simple set of very human examples: Every time you sense that you should avoid saying or doing something harmful, realise that this is probably the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Recognise this as God’s way of melting you. Every time you feel a prompting to show someone compassion or to be generous to someone, recognise that this, too, is probably the Holy Spirit – this time moulding you.
There is always an element of trial and error involved in letting the Spirit melt us and mould us. There is always an element of risk as you step out in faith to follow these promptings. Sometimes you’ll get it right, sometimes you’ll get it wrong. But if you’re trying your best, and if you’re staying open to the Lord, you can be at peace, knowing that you are safe in the potter’s hands. As Vincentians, we are challenged to recognise the promptings of the Holy Spirit when we encounter Christ in the people experiencing marginalisation, our Companions with whom we are privileged to share the sacrament of time. Remember the story of Simon Peter’s denial of Christ?
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” ….As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:13-27)
As we read through this tragic narrative we must ask ourselves the difficult question: do we ever deny Christ? I do not believe that we deny Christ in the sense of denying our faith to the world. What I do wonder, however, is whether at times we deny to ourselves that we are actually meeting Christ in our Companions.
The Holy Spirit gently but firmly whispers the questions to our hearts: Didn’t I see you with Christ when you were visiting that young mother and her two children in the cramped flat last night? Wasn’t it Christ I saw you with last week as you sat with the old man who was very much alone and wondering how he was going to keep the electricity on? I suspect that, for all of us, and this is precisely the nature of the journey of melting and moulding by the Spirit, our immediate response is sometimes: No! It was not Christ we were with. That was someone else! May we journey to that beautiful recognition that it is Christ we encounter in our Companions and that our encounters can be both deeply human and truly sacred. Like the journey of faith itself!
Questions for Reflection
1 In our journey as Vincentians we are careful not to deny our faith. But how do we sometimes deny our love? Or our hope?
2 Christ is our Teacher. What have we learned from him in our encounters with him during home visits?