Gustavo Gutiérrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People. 20th Anniversary Edition. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2003.
In the foreword, Henri Nouwen beautifully articulates that the premises within Gutiérrez’s book grow out of the “lived experience” (xiii b) of God’s presence in history as understood by “men and women who have devoted themselves to pastoral ministry in Latin America.” As each one of us seeks to live out our faith, we too are part of a concrete experience of God at work in the world around us. In caring for and pastorally ministering to others in our communities, we are given a glimpse of a diverse and yet unique spiritual journey.
“Spirituality, Gustavo writes, is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the experience of faith” (xvi) It is a personal encounter with God breaking into the very essence of our lives, meeting us where we are spiritually, creating ineffable moments of transformation and continual conversion. An understanding of spirituality, therefore, which is sourced in God’s love produces not only comfort but is itself an abundant stream of joy and blessings. This is a very important to consider, I believe, as it is quite easy to focus on the struggle and neglect to understand that there are also the experiences from the Lord of “joy and gratitude, friendship and generosity, humility and mutual care”.(xv)
This brings me to Gutiérrez’s discussion of St. Paul’s “walking according to the Spirit, who is life and enables us to live in freedom”.(3) That while we are engaged in the journey of life in the Spirit, we do not know the bends and twists in the path ahead, but is “established in the very going” of our discipleship. It is a journey that we do not travel alone, for the Spirit guides, and we travel together as an “entire people” in search of freedom and the experience of the fullness of life .In doing so we also find joy and fellowship with one another. Pope Francis speaks very eloquently to this also in encouraging us to recognize that discipleship is a journey together, and we need to reach out to one another as we engage in our call to discipleship and mission. In time and ministry with the elderly, I recognize fully the call to bring Christ and the presence of community. The freedom we seek-from loneliness, pain, and the unknowing as we journey from this life to life eternal with God, is there. As well as the joy of holding the hand of another along the way!
A point that Gutiérrez makes quite clear in his writings, however is that in accompanying the poor and oppressed we cannot just tend to the spiritual needs but must actively address their material needs as well. If others are to truly “see and know Christ in and through us” then I believe we must also be attentive to feeding, clothing and caring for those “least” among us. As Gutiérrez notes there must be “unity and connection between prayer and action” and a desire to live our Christian spiritual life within the historical reality of the world (17). Of course it may very well challenge us to examine our own consumption habits and shake us from our comfort level in the underlying structures which support inequality and injustice. Yet, we cannot fall back on the assumption that the poor will always be with us, but instead tend to the poor in front of us.Remembering that Christ did not choose to solely dine with those considered most like him, but radically reached across the table to those whom others wanted nothing to do with.
This movement of prayer and action can take several different directions, depending on God’s guidance and your own charisms. Perhaps you are able to provide resources, or to advocate and enlist the participation of others. A close friend of mine, for instance, gathers food and needed household items for the homeless when make the transition into temporary housing. In my community alone,there are a number of organizations which seek to serve the poor- St. Vincent’s de Paul, Matthew’s Kitchen, and an Interfaith Food pantry. Homeless and families, many of which arrive at least an hour ahead of distribution, often leave expressing a renewed hope for the day ahead. Conversely, those who serve are given a profound and humble appreciation of the gift of being present to this graced moment.
God is so amazing- he constantly trumps in gift giving! Take time today for both prayer and action, embracing the Christ before you!