Jesus as Spiritual Director — Center for Action and Contemplation

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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Jesus as Spiritual Director

Spiritual Direction

Jesus as Spiritual Director
Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Every culture and religious tradition have some method of passing on spiritual wisdom and for helping individuals to discover their own. The Christian tradition of spiritual direction can find its origin in Jesus’ own way of relating to his disciples and the many who sought him out for healing and instruction. Jeannette Bakke emphasizes Jesus’ own intimacy with God as the source of his authority that he encourages others to rely on as well.

Jesus is the ultimate spiritual director because of his intimacy with God, his Abba. Jesus listened and responded to others out of his attentiveness to the Father, out of his participation in the Jewish covenant community, and out of his knowledge of Scripture and Jewish law. But the Father’s love and presence and the Holy Spirit’s anointing were the most powerful influences in Jesus’ life and the source of direction for others. . . .

Jesus taught and offered direction to his disciples and others before and after the resurrection. In each case, he spoke to their personal situation within the framework of God’s faithfulness and invited them to recognize God’s loving presence and availability to guide and bless. . . .

At Jacob’s well Jesus listened to a woman about her relationship with God and her human relationships. Jesus pointed her directly to God.

It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. (John 4:23–24, The Message). . . .

When he was speaking to groups, Jesus often told stories—parables—to invite people to listen to and respond to God. He used parables to catch people’s attention and to illustrate and clarify the nature of the kingdom of God. His audiences would have been startled by stories of a Samaritan hero (Luke 10:25–37), a justified tax collector (Luke 18:9–14), or a father running to welcome his prodigal son (Luke 15:20). These stories said, “Look, this is what God is like.” Jesus used these stories to offer spiritual direction by challenging people to look more closely at what they believed and why, what their own experience of God was and how they interpreted their experiences with God. This is the essence of spiritual direction—encouraging people to listen to and follow God. [Richard here: And, I would add, by whatever name they call God or understand the Great and Loving Mystery at the heart of the cosmos.]

In Scripture we observe Jesus always listening for the voice of his Abba—in relationship to his disciples, other individuals, small groups, and crowds. Present-day spiritual directors attempt to function in the same way by listening to the Holy Spirit and responding to directees and others out of prayerful attentiveness to God.

Jeannette A. Bakke, Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction (Baker Books: 2000), 178–179, 181.

Explore further resources and watch Father Richard Rohr explain why more people are asking for—and benefiting from—spiritual direction.

Story from Our Community:
When my husband died ten years ago, I walked alone with my sadness. An encounter with a curious hummingbird, who flew in front of my face and looked at me for many seconds, revealed my hidden spirituality. I saw that we were connected, that all living things were connected, and I needed to pay attention to my own spiritual nature. This led me to spiritual direction training. . . I became myself: a listener, an empath, a person concerned with and connected to all of life. It was a startling and life-affirming moment that changed my life. —Pamela P.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, caught II (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham.
Image inspiration: This pattern of leaves exists for a brief moment in time—a calm just before wind buffets the surface and the leaves shift. Like these leaves, our many facets of human experience are in constant motion. Spiritual direction invites us to gently reveal this dance, moment by moment.
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