A brush merchant

As I walked home, I was overtaken by a vertical collection of brooms.

As it passed, I realised it was a man on a bicycle with a neatly bound selection of different sorts and colours of brushes. He skilfully wove his way among the potholes like a dancer on a stage. His demeanour suggested a happy man, confident he knew what he was doing.

We know little of the deeper stirrings in people’s hearts. This week we have a saying in the scriptures; He is ‘the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit’. We can quickly pass by, saying, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that before many times. I know what it means.’ Well, maybe. But what does it really mean for us? Karl Rahner, the German Jesuit theologian who flourished in the late twentieth century, wrote, ‘we may think we find around us too much of the spirit of the world and too little of the Spirit of the Father. While these impressions may frequently be valid, there is usually something false in them. Something false, I say, because the human eye cannot detect the Spirit in us and in the church.’

We are baptised. But we do not always attune ourselves to the promptings of the Spirit who lives in us. I am always struck by the example of Elizabeth Musodzi and Charles Mzingeli who, in the 1920s and 30s, worked patiently and successfully for the improvement in the living and working conditions of the people of Harare. They were brushed aside because they were not producing quick results. Now, there are sharply different views about that period of our history but the question can, at least, be asked; were we attentive at the time to the deeper workings of the Spirit in our hearts? Ghandi once said (I do not have his exact words), ‘I would be prepared to wait – if necessary, for a long time – for freedom to come if, in doing so, we could avoid violence.’ He was a man who reflected deeply and believed that violence only breeds violence. Patience lays a better foundation.

We are baptised, yes. But has the Spirit found a place in our bloodstream? Are our reactions and thoughts prompted by a habit of attentiveness to the deeper movements of our heart or are we inclined to follow the crowd? It is a question to ponder as we stand, in our imagination, by the river Jordan this week and listen to the words of the Baptist.

Sometimes we can be helped by a person who passes by, like the man selling brushes.

15 January 2023    Sunday 2 A           Is 49:3-6      1 Cor 1:1-3    John 1:29-34

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