“Who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit within that person?” (1 Cor 2:11).
In today’s first reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul explores one of the deep mysteries of what it means to be a human being. As bodies, we are also individual selves, possessing self-consciousness. We can “see” ourselves thinking, and are thus able to freely direct our thoughts and motives to act. By expressing ourselves in this way, we establish our identities in the world. We become individual selves.
Not only is this an amazing thing, but St. Paul says that God also has a Spirit –- the divine Self –- and that Spirit and our spirit commune, enabling us to know the mind of God and to live at a level of spiritual discernment that elevates us above blind animal nature. We are invited to share friendship with God because Jesus has bridged human consciousness and divine consciousness.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 4:31 ff), Jesus demonstrates his spiritual authority. He comes to the synagogue in Capernaum and there encounters a man possessed by a demonic spirit. He expels it and restores the man to himself. Jesus is in touch with the Source -- the Author -- of life. His very presence reasserts human wholeness and balance.
Our ability to give ourselves in love depends first on self-possession and self-respect. The Great Commandment affirms that right relationship with God and neighbor is measured through the self. We love God with our whole self -- heart, mind and strength -- and then our neighbor as our self. A distortion in our sense of self lessens our ability to see clearly, judge accurately what is true.
Prayer -- that conscious intimate conversation with God each day -- is what anchors us into our true selves. When the storms of life assault us with self-doubt, the need for approval, fear of rejection, the temptation to open our hearts to any passing influence, we rely on the Spirit to keep us safe and centered in God. There alone do we find peace, purpose and joy.