No 24 “I am a Spiritual Person”
“I am a spiritual person” insist many people today; whether they are church-goers or not, whether they are members of a religion or not; whether they pray or not; even whether they believe in God or not.
Surprised? We should not be. For within each one of us is a spirit, our immortal soul, which comes not from our material substance, but from our Creator. Our bodies may have evolved from earthly matter, but our soul is created by God. Created by Him for a purpose higher than the merely mundane. A purpose sublime. As children of God we are born to be spiritual. To be Spirit-filled. To aspire. To hope. To know and to do the will of God in all things. So, whether we recognise it or not, want it or not, deny it or not, we are far more than animals governed and driven by urges and instincts. Long have wise men recognised this. Christ, the Word of God, the Abrahamic Scriptures, and the Catholic Church testify to and underline this fundamental human reality. Reason does so too, if we allow ourselves to think logically. That is why so many like to say ‘We are spiritual people.”
What is spirituality?
Spirituality, as it is commonly thought of in our culture and many others today, consists in the idea that there is something, be it a state of mind, a being, or a place, that is outside the experience of our five limited senses. Spirituality in this sense is the personal relationship of the individual to this state of mind, being or place. It often emphasises the notion of a path, a goal, or an improved relationship with the sacred, and is imbued with a sense of hoping for or trying to move towards something better. For believers in God or theists, it is, also, as indeed it should be, a communion and a personal relationship with the Divine. It calls upon us to transcend selfishness and self-indulgence, and to be open to a vision of the best we can be, the best the world can be, and to try to do something about it. But, without reference to a transcendent God, there is no standard for spirituality, or what should be its ethical underpinnings.
Such ‘spirituality’ is often informed and manipulated by the prevailing culture, by pre-religious, post-religious and non-religious values, personal preferences, and opportunity. In relation to any of these moral and ethical choices between what is deemed to be good and evil, right and wrong, good and better are made. And, both the collective and personal ‘wisdom’ are notoriously inconsistent, and all so often mistaken. That is why St. Paul highlights the difference between genuine and spurious spirituality, between what is spiritual and unspiritual.
Most of us go in for an amalgam of both. Even those of us who pride ourselves on our virtue and sincerity. Without heart and mind open and obedient to the promptings of the Spirit and to true religion, we are but a leaky boat on stormy seas, without a rudder and devoid of charts and navigational aids. Our question should be, “Do we know the sort of spiritual predicament we are in?” “Do we know or care about the short-term and the long-term consequences for ourselves and for others, including those we say we love, of our ignorance and indolence?” “Do we want to know?” “Are we afraid that the truth might impel us to go beyond make-believe and life in our comfort zone, and change our ways and life-style?” This is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and of authentic religion come in.
But there are so many religions which claim to be of God. Are they all equally true? Is it possible to discover which is the authentic guide? Indeed, it is possible. But, do we really want to know? Isn’t this where our love for God, and our integrity and courage, backed by sound reasoning come in?
Insights from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
….you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love… You must love your neighbour as yourself. … be guided by the Spirit, and you will no longer yield to self-indulgence. The desires of self-indulgence are always in opposition to the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are in opposition to self-indulgence… When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: sexual vice, impurity, and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery; antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and all such things. And about these, I tell you now as I have told you in the past, that people who behave in these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God. On the other hand the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control; no law can touch such things as these. All who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with all its passions and its desires. (Galatians 5:13 – 24)[NJB]
Thus says the Lord: “.. my eyes are drawn to the man of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2) [NJB]
Lord, make me know your ways. Lord, teach me your paths (Psalm 25).
Help us to live in the light of your presence. (Psalter Week 1, Friday)