Cultivate a lifelong openness to learning | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

9 June 2019: Pentecost Sunday

Gospel—John 14: 5-16, 23-26


Today we celebrate Pentecost, the final event in the Paschal Mystery of the Cross-Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost chain of events. This Sunday’s Gospel points out two functions of the Spirit: to teach and to remind.


The Spirit teaching us makes us see our journey as a lifelong process of learning. One of the core values that we advocate in our work in education is lifelong openness to learning, growth and development—mostly shaped by Ignatian education and spirituality.


This function of the Spirit is the age-old antidote to what psychologists call the “arrival fallacy.” It comes from the belief that once we have reached our goal, “We have arrived,” thus, we will be happy. Many realize, though, this is not the case.


Last week, we mentioned in our reflections David Brooks, who says the same thing in his latest book. When we reach the top of our careers and all that we aspire and work for has materialized, we ask, “Is this it? Is this all that there is to it?”


A sense of emptiness and lack kicks in after much work and effort, a result of an inordinate focus on the goal, the prize to the detriment of learning (through reflecting on the experience of the journey) and an appreciation of the action that flows from it. Both put success or achievement in proper context. Devoid of such a context, many high achievers experience this arrival fallacy.


Lifelong openness to learning, growth and development is both a virtue of humility and a journey toward wholeness. It is a concrete manifestation that the journey is as important as the destination, the means and the ends are of equal importance.


Embracing our shortcomings


The humility and the quest for wholeness open us to an important learning experience, the learning that comes from experiencing and dealing with failure. As Parker Palmer wrote, we must embrace our shortcomings, failures and trespasses in our quest for wholeness.


The learning that the Spirit blesses us with is the realization that we are not perfect. But a commitment to life, to others, to God, to a sense of meaning and mission is what inspires us to journey toward the perfection of our humanity—a proleptic perfection, already-but-not yet.


How to describe and summarize this gift of the Spirit teaching us, of us learning? It is when we learn to live humbly, yet always aspiring for a life of excellence in serving and loving others and God.


This is now the context for us to experience the other gift of the Spirit, the Spirit reminding us. This gift of being reminded comes in our moments and acts of remembering.




Remembering reconnects us to our story, and it is in our story that we discover or rediscover two key elements.


First is remembering our story, reconnecting with our journey with the gift of self-awareness and self-acceptance. This is a process that leads us to reintegration and to rediscovering our wholeness. As Thomas Merton encouragingly puts it, “There is in all things a hidden wholeness.”


In the story lies not just identity, but also mission. This is the second element that remembering gives us. Our wholeness and integrity is in our mission.


The gift of the Spirit who will teach and remind us is given within the context of what the Gospel for today tersely, yet vividly, describes. The ground and context of all this is love: the love of the Father for the Son, the love with which the Son loves us, and the love to which we are called to and asked to live out.


Love is the animating element of everything. This is the core of the Paschal Mystery. The love of the Son for the Father is expressed in obedience on the Cross. The love of the Father for the Son’s obedience is expressed in the Resurrection. The Ascension is the Son passing on this love, the mission to proclaim this love, to us as a community.


The Pentecost provides us with the gift to live this out—to teach and remind us about this love.


Tomorrow, we return to ordinary time in our liturgical calendar. We return to it with the gift of the Spirit. This Spirit empowers us to translate this love into day-to-day living, bringing into the ordinary moments of our life this extraordinary love of God that comes to us in Christ. —CONTRIBUTED