Editor’s note: Article originally published on March 17, 2017.
My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.
Spring Cleaning for the Soul
I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 797, states,
“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.
Teresa of Avila on Cleaning the Soul
This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently. She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”
Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.
Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.
Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.
My goal is to take a few minutes each remaining week in Lent to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.
Editor’s note: Article originally published on April 11, 2017.
I mentioned this analogy a few weeks ago when referring to the spiritual life, but I like the tangibility of it so I will mention it again. Saint Teresa of Avila likened the soul and its journey in the spiritual life to the navigation through a large a castle whereby our soul consists of several mansions. When I talked about this image with my parish’s discipleship group, I half-joked that I not only have mansions I need to order but also lots of “cellars of my soul” I need to examine and clean out.
Save the Best Wine
On a serious note, I firmly believe there are many cellars within my soul I need to discover and maintain. A common definition of cellar means “of the lowest rank or grade”. Another usage of the word cellar is in relation to place where wine is stored. I have never actually lived in or owned a home with a cellar. However, I have tasted wine and I have experienced years where my favorite sports team resided in the cellar of the league standings.
Inside the Cellar
Going back to the image of our Christian spiritual life as exploring the recesses of our interior castle, I have pondered how I might be able to reach the depths of my soul. I think one practical way for me to start this journey is to begin working with a spiritual director. According to St. John of the Cross, a director [spiritual] should be learned, prudent, and experienced.
Try as I might, I have yet to get past a certain threshold in my spiritual life. I am hoping that by adding a spiritual director and going on a silent retreat later this year that I will be graced with the help to access my spiritual wine cellar. Here I hope to share my spiritual gifts with others and give greater thanksgiving to God. But first, I need send that simple email. I will keep you updated on my journey through future posts. I humbly ask for your prayers as I begin this journey to explore the cellars of my soul.
It’s no secret 2020 has been a less than perfect year. You might have had great expectations. New year equals a new start—new opportunities to kick bad habits. But soon you realized 2020 was not going to be a fairy tale. World basketball phenom Kobe Bryant died in January. Following this sudden tragedy was the COVID19 pandemic (with no end seemingly in sight). Race riots emerged afterward. Lockdowns. Quarantines. Masks. Masks. And more masks. The buzzwords of the year.
What the h***’s going on?! Seriously, why all this suffering? This isn’t the way life is meant to be. No sports or music concerts or church services. Those things stabilize us and give meaning to the topsy-turvies of life. You want things to go back to being normal (I want the craziness to stop—I can’t play real-life Jumanji anymore).
Did normalcy ever exist?
Life has never been normal. What exactly is normal? The dictionary defines ‘normal’ as conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 2020 was unexpected! Who expected a microscopic virus to cripple the world economy and upturn people’s lives in unimaginable ways?
In April, I contracted the COVID19 virus. It was a horrendous experience. A high fever persisted for almost two weeks straight. It zapped me of energy, taste, smell, and gave me intense full body aches. This virus would have killed me had it not been due to the persistent prayers of my family and friends along with my wife making me drink water every hour and use a rescue inhaler for the first time in my life. In the beginning, I was angry with God for allowing me to get infected. I took every single precaution: washed my hands twice an hour, socially distanced, and consumed Vitamin C daily.
But in the heart of my suffering I recalled how God saved me from an intense depression and loss in 2014—losing an unborn child to miscarriage. Hindsight is 2020 (no pun intended). I experienced a lack of consolation in prayer. At first, I thought it was due to me not having enough faith. But learning more about the prayer life as detailed by Saint John of the Cross, I found out I was going through a Dark Night of the Soul. It is through that lens I view the trials the Church (and world) face in 2020.
Seeds of Faith Grow in the Soil of Suffering
Ever since I endured the suffering of having to bury unborn children, Jesus’ words in John 12:24 has become easier to understand. Christ said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Suffering is a means to kill the self (selfish desires and tendency towards sin). My suffering in 2014 caused me to be buried in a spiritual darkness. Out of the shroud of suffering I emerged renewed and more trusting in God’s Providence.
The greatest of saints grew into faithful witness for the Gospel through being buried in a soil of suffering. Saint John Paul II lived in Poland during Nazi and Communist occupation. He lost all of his immediate family members before his 22nd birthday. Such loss could have easily driven Karol Wojtyła into callousness and resentment. He looked to the Cross as a way to survive his unimaginable suffering.
10,000 Difficulties Don’t Equal a Single Doubt
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman famously wrote, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. (unequal).” The English cardinal’s words seem appropriate for Catholics to hear in 2020. How many times do you read on Catholic social media posts about people not trusting in God because of COVID19 precautionary measure? I was once accused of worshipping a “mask deity” because of my stance on wearing a facemask to public masses.
The current pandemic has presented too many difficulties to count for the Catholic. Earlier this year, the United States Catholic bishops decided to suspend all public Masses and the weekly obligation to attend. This led to an outpouring of confusion, concern, and frustration on the part of the laity. People began to blame the bishop and label them cowards for giving into the secular stance on the coronavirus situation.
Soon after Catholic social media lit up into tribalistic squabbles. Catholics began calling out their spiritual brother and sister’s faith into question. But a difficulty doesn’t equate to a doubt. Last time I checked, I don’t possess the ability to read a person’s heart and I am fairly confident most other Catholics lack that ability too. Instead of questioning a person’s faith would it not be more prudent and effective to ask the Holy Spirit for unity, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and generosity in online discussions?
All Things Work for the Good
Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.” In pop culture, the NBC drama Manifest (an amazing show about passengers on a plane who mysteriously reappears five years after disappearing) has increased the popularity of this verse. Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite Bible quotes. It has increased in relevance since enduring my Dark Night of the Soul in 2014.
All things work for the good even when you’re in a spiritual dark night.
Fear over the unknown may be the most common fear (even more widespread than fear of death). So much misinformation exists on the COVID19 pandemic. Was the lockdown needed or not? Was the virus naturally occurring or lab-generated? Are facemasks effective or not? Will the pandemic miraculously end the day after the election because a particular political party created the virus? (I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theory but simply wanted to detail out the variance in thought about COVID19).
All things work for the good for those who love God.
God uses bad things and evil things for good. God is so good that even evil is transformed as a means to be drawn in closer to Him. For example my wife and I lost children to miscarriage. Out of that horror we grew in faith.
Whoever wins the United States election or whatever craziness left for the rest of 2020 only matters in the short-term. In the long-term (or more precisely in the perspective of eternity), all things work for the good of those who love God.
How Can Catholics Finish out 2020
Fear, animosity, blame-gaming, and judging others’ hearts has been the norm of social media. I believe the world is in a ‘Dark Night’. Suffering is not something to shy away from but should be viewed as an offering to God in prayer. It’s okay to have difficulties with how this year is going.
Don’t be afraid to completely break down in tears and shoot salvos of laments to the Holy Trinity. Ten thousand, ten million or ten billion difficulties don’t equal a doubt in God’s Providence. And etch this verse in your heart, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”
Incredible saints have come from the Carmelite religious order: Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux represent this Catholic spirituality. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Spiritual Mother of the Carmelites.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. During the late 14th century, St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary who advised him to wear a scapular as a sign of her protection.
Before I go further, I have to clarify something to avoid getting a ticket from the grammar police. I am aware I misspelled Carmel in the title (who hasn’t said caramel in place of carmel 😊 at least once?). I did not know much about the Brown Scapular (or any for that matter—there is blue, green, and white too!) until a few years ago. This Catholic devotion provides a sweet win over sin. However, God planted many hints of this devotion in my childhood.
Before my son’s First Communion earlier this summer, we showed him some sacramentals I received for my First Communion and on the top right of the felt-laden box was a brown scapular. My mother also made it a point to frequent the local Carmelite monastery when Mass was open to the public.
Sacramental, Not Magic
The Brown Scapular is not a talisman—it does not bestow magical protection for the wearer. According to the Catholic of the Catholic Church paragraph 1677, “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men (and women) to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.”
While Mary promised protection (and salvation) to all wearing the Brown Scapular upon death, the sacramental is a sign pointing at sacramental living. I had a priest bless my Brown Scapular. It is suggested you make a consecration to Mary as well.
Initially, Marian consecration seemed excessive (I already pray the Rosary). But the more I petition Our Spiritual Mother for guidance the closer I am to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek—Jesus, her Son.”
We Give Titles to People We Honor
I have learned that the more a person learns about a subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple monikers for my children as well.
Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. She has over 2,000 titles! Her title Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us that closeness to Mary is closeness to Jesus. Mary’s promised Simon Stock, “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” Again, the Brown Scapular is not a lucky charm or talisman. Instead, it is an outward sign of an interior lifestyle. The principles of Carmelite spirituality include:
Frequent participation in the Mass and reception of the Eucharist
Frequent reading of and reflections on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture
The regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours
Imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice
The practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (accordion to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.
Mount Carmel—A Place of Sweet Victory
Another interesting fact about the Carmelites is Mount Carmel is the same mountain where the Old Testament prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Ba’al. Elijah lived during a time when Israel succumbed to idol worship. His complete trust in God allowed him to be an instrument for God’s power and majesty (1 Kings 18: 20-39).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel testifies to the power of God in an even better way than Elijah. Mary’s total obedience to God the Father’s will led the birth of Jesus Christ—our savior. The Blessed Mother of God leads us to the Son. You will battle sin all your life. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel protects us and leads us to victory (through trusting in Jesus) over sin.
If you look up synonyms for PANDEMIC, you find at least 40 different words of which only a small handful seem at all connotative of something as negative as the Coronavirus. Most eml of the synonyms listed seem to invoke a description rdmore relatable to what many films of us have found as an antidote to our current situation of fear and outbreak
Catholic (but catholic, with a little “c”)
One of the first words I saw was “catholic”; not to be confused with Catholic, which is a proper noun describing a kind of Christian. The adjective catholic also means universal, and when we say the Nicene Creed at each Sunday liturgy, we are proclaiming belief in the four pillars of the church; one, holy, catholic (not Catholic) and apostolic. We are stating our belief in the one church of Jesus Christ that is his universal church.
There are few times I feel more catholic (and Catholic) than when I say the rosary because it is the total and the whole of intercessory prayer (by the way, ALL synonyms for pandemic as well.) I feel I can–in a steady and comprehensive way–capture the totality of all prayers in my heart, as well as those for the suffering around the world, and give them all to Jesus in faith through the capable hands of his mother.
“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
-Saint Maximillan Kolbe
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. —Revelation 12:1
Empyrean means heavenly or celestial. The divine transcends through prayer of the rosary because of the four sets of mysteries we consider, Glorious, Sorrowful, Joyful or Luminous are scriptural. Each guide us through five “decades” which begin with an Our Father, then ten Hail Mary prayers, and finally a Glory Be.
Each decade is based on a moment in the life and legacy of Christ, including that which began in the womb of his Blessed Mother, and ending with her reuniting with him in Heaven. We meditate through these divine moments with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, which can take us to great depths of these great mysteries. Where would we be without the divine help of the Holy Spirit?
“The celestial b0odies are the cause of all that takes place in the sublunar world.” –Saint Thomas Aquinas
The repetitive prayer of the “Hail Mary”, most of which is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, starting around verse 42 “Hail Mary, full of grace…” ends with a simple a petition to ask Our Lady for her prayers, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” I think it is a good idea to ask her to pray for us at this defining moment, when we enter the empyrean realm.
We do not usually think of the physical when considering prayer, but the rosary involves the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—as we account for each prayer while walking with the Blessed Virgin Mary through her son’s life. Because my own ‘terrestrial” mother has been devoted to the rosary for years, having made many a pilgrimage, she has a wide variety of rosaries.
Taking an extra suitcase when she goes on her “holy travels”, my mom buys up all the rosaries she can fit and brings them home to hand out to everyone she meets all year long. On several occasions she purchased one for every child in my kids’ school (about 350 students.)
The rosaries range from simple plastic rosaries, to six-feet-long rosaries that include every decade—all 20—on one long strand. Some rosaries are themed, such one I have with icons of the great basilicas as the Our Father beads; there are also “peace rosaries”, and “stations of the cross” rosaries. Some rosaries have special beads that smell like rose petals because many have reported the smell of roses when fervently praying the rosary in holy places. Others are made from small rocks from the land where visions of Our Lady took place (I have one of these too!)
In any case, if you ask someone who has a great devotion to the rosary to tell you about their favorite rosary you will get a fast answer. Devotees hold fast to their favorite. Some prefer the smooth wood or the gripping texture of rope. Consequently, if we get too attached to our favorite rosary, sometimes we will be asked to give it up to someone else.
Unique Tool for Spiritual Growth
I have heard many stories of someone who adores a certain rosary (for sentimental reasons or the feel of it, etc.) they will hear the Holy Spirit nudge them to give it away. Always reluctant, they hear it loud and clear within their spirit and feel the unmistakable nudge to hand it over. Always to a recipient that seems to be on the verge of discovering the devotion for themselves and sure enough pass the special sacramental on to bless another. Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants us to keep the spirit of the prayer in the forefront, which is trust in the intercessory prayer of Jesus’ favorite lady, his mom.
Many of the faithful have turned to this prayer over centuries of pandemic disease, wars, starvation and natural disasters. With burdened fingers grasping the smooth beads in search of refuge, tender souls find themselves universally affected. Perhaps the fifteen promises that accompany the rosary make it appealing to some. I believe the rosary is pandemic because we receive consolation from our spiritual mother.
“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” —Saint Padre Pio
“The Rosary is a prayer both so humble and simple and theologically rich in bible content. I beg you to pray it.” –Saint John Paul The Great
“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult is it, that we cannot resolve by the power of the Holy Rosary.” Sister Lucia (visionary of Fatima)
“Give me an army saying the rosary, and I will conquer the world.” –Blessed Pope Pius IX
Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.
Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!
Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.
Fierce Defender of Truth
Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”
Love is a Divine Furnace
Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God love burns away sin. God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.
Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.
God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.
According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.
Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote, “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.
Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 10, 2019.
The spiritual life for the Christian is not a mere horizontal path, but rather vertical and likened to a ladder— consisting of different levels of progression. Thus, the spiritual journey for the Catholic-Christian is composed of three steps being the interior, religious, and spiritual. In this post, I will focus on individuals from St. Luke’s Gospel who exhibit each stage.
Stage 1— The Interior Life
First, the “interior life” refers to the initial level of the spiritual path for Christians. At this stage, a person demonstrates the ability to be self-aware (self-autonomous) and shows the capacity to utilize their imagination. This stage is necessary for a Christian to increase and deepen their spirituality. However, it is possible to have a profound interior life without being spiritual. A pragmatic instance of this is a secular artist painting a picture. They exercise their imagination without contemplating the mysteries of God. Nevertheless, normally the more powerful the imagination is, the greater potential a person has to power their “spiritual engine”—the mind.
Example of the Rich Young Man
Two instances of the “interior life” within the Gospel of Luke include the Rich Young Man 18:18-30 and the centurion at the Crucifixion 23:44-49. Regarding the former, the Revised Standard Edition refers to the Rich Young Man as a ruler who initiates contact with Jesus by posing a query: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(v. 18). An analysis of this statement shows the ruler demonstrating the “interior life” on a twofold manner: he knew Jesus was a good, informative teacher (he probably heard about the previous work and preaching of Jesus from others) and the question asked was of metaphysical nature, which thus required imagination and intellect to ponder.
Jesus responds by telling the man to adhere to the Decalogue. The man then tells Christ that he diligently follows the commandments. But Jesus required more, he wanted the Rich Ruler to give away his material goods to the poor. But the man was unable to do so. While he exhibited an “interior life” by asking the right question, the Rich Young Man was not spiritual due to failure to move past material wealth (v.23). Augmenting this point the narrator tells the reader that the man was sad to give up his possessions and thus shows why he cannot move past the interior level.
Example of the Roman Centurion
A second case of someone having the interior life in Luke comes at the close of the gospel. After hanging upon the cross for several hours, darkness came over the land and the veil of the temple split in two and Jesus uttered his final breath. During this a centurion proclaimed “Certainly this man was innocent!” (v.47). The centurion saw the curtain torn and perhaps remembered Jesus’ premonition that the Temple would be destroyed. Such recall shows intellect and imagination. In fact he had such a powerful imagination, that the centurion “praised God” in v.47. Because of this, he had a profound “interior life”.
Stage 2—The Religious Life
Defined as the level where one is focused on concepts of rituals and/or sacraments, the “religious life” is the next stage in Christian spirituality. To put it another way, this phase denotes an experience of contact with the Transcendent deity via religion.
Two prime examples of this are the Pharisees in Luke 6:1-5 and Peter in 9:28-36. With the former, the Pharisees badgered Jesus and his disciples for gathering grain on the Sabbath. Their query in v. 2 shows that they are primarily concerned with Jewish ritual practices, which exhibits a sign of being in the “religious life” phase. The narrator gives a further clue that this is a case of the “religious life” because Jesus corrected them by showing that David set a precedent in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The Pharisees were thus being nit-picky about the Sabbath law.
Example of the Transfiguration
The second incident of a person existing in the “religious life” level of spirituality occurs a few chapters later at the Transfiguration. Upon witnessing Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, Peter utters a seemingly perplexing statement, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths…” (9:33). Knowledge of the main Jewish celebrations is needed to ascertain Cephas’ point. Peter is referring to the Feast of Booths which recalls Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their wandering in the desert for 40 years. Although Peter is being an astute Jew by wanting to follow that ritual custom of erecting a tent, his missed the true purpose of the Transfiguration and hence he is at the “religious” level of the spiritual life and not yet at the final stage.
Stage 3—The Spiritual Life
The final phase of the spiritual journey is at the level of the “spiritual life”. The phrase “the spiritual life” is delineated as the level where mankind’s spirit and the Holy Spirit connect— it also presupposes and fulfills the latter two stages in the spiritual excursion.
Example of Mary
At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s fiat in 1:26-38 is the most perfect expression of obedience to God and a person having the fullness of the “spiritual life”. First of all, when the angel Gabriel came to her, Mary although initially concerned did not flee. Rather she listened to the message. After hearing the news of her future pregnancy, Mary asked “How can this be since I have no husband?” (She pledged her life to remain a virgin). Gabriel responded by telling her that Jesus will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s reply in v. 38 displays her complete surrender to God’s will and shows why she exhibits the “spiritual life”.
Example of the Repentant Sinful Woman
The next case of the “spiritual life” in Luke also is of a woman. In 7:36-50 a sinful woman wept at Jesus’ feet, because of her sins, and cleansed them with her tears and expensive ointment. Luke juxtaposes this woman with Simon, Jesus’ Pharisaic host. He scorned the woman due to her sin. Jesus quips back by saying that the woman washed his feet without him asking. Simon failed to welcome Jesus with the same hospitality (v.45-47). Verse 48 shows the climax of this passage, “Your sins are forgiven”. She desired forgiveness and Christ is pleased to forgive. For this reason, she is an example of having the “spiritual life”.
St. Francis de Sales declared, “All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” Our reflection on St. Luke’s Gospel proves that God meets individuals at various places and times. Whether you are at the beginning or more advanced path to holiness, the key to “climbing” the spiritual ladder is to let Christ carry you— cooperate with Divine Providence this week! I challenge you to plunge yourself into the Scriptures this week and mediate on how you can better encounter Jesus.