October 1, 2017
Even a dreadful sinner can be seeking for God. That is why spirituality – the search for God – and morality – the quest for a good life – are not to be equated with each other. However, the moral life of a spiritual person will have a definite tone and flavor to it.
One can do moral thinking based on rules or on rights or on mutual advantage or enlightened self-interest or their opposites. But one who is truly seeking God will seek him also in his actions with on and in reaction to other people. Thus the funadamental moral question for the spiritual person will be how does this relationship affect my relationship with God? The more truly spiritual the person is, the more his relationships and itneractions will be organized around this question.
His hagiographers are fond of repeating that Saint Dominic that hardly ever spoke to or about anyone or anything but God. But that must not be taken to mean that spiritual people are all ‘pious and religious’; the other question that they ask in their interactions with others will be How does my relationship with God affect my realtionship with this other person?
We can be certain, then, that the most spiritual people will be, not only the most missionary minded, but also the most intense seekers of justice and mercy and a bettter life for all. They will have discovered the deep-down unity of the first and second great commandments of love for God and neighbor.
That is why it can happen that love of neighbor, a preoccupation with the sufferings, wants and needs of others, can often lead to a deep resentment of God and others who seem to be less than interested in creating a utopia here on earth. Here again, actions and interactions on the horizontal, this worldly plain (morality), are not always indicators of a deep spirituality – even though a deep spirituality will always result in a deep love of neighbor.
Do you remember that Mother Teresa was roundly criticized because she was not concerned about the politics and mechanics of eradicating poverty sickness and suffering? Her only concern was to help and comfort poor people, sick people, suffering people.
Well, then, how about monks and hermits? They seem not much interested practical charity for the neighbor.
Saint Benedict, who is the ‘father’ of most of the monks and hermits of the Church that we know makes his monks take a vows of conversion, stability and obedience. Living out those vows means that they will not flee from their neighbor (stability) that they will not make excuses for themselves when neighborliness grows difficult (conversion) and that they will not allow their own judgment and desires to run their lives or the lives of others (obedience). He calls this a ‘school of Christ’s service’ and a ‘participation in his cross’. Try living like that for a week you’ll see what he means. Whether one lives in a monastery or the biggest city in the world, spirituality is always the same; the stage is always the same: the diminishing space between the spritual person and the infinte God; and the task is always the same: to grow in love. That is why those who come to monasteries looking for a community of saints almost always leave disappointed.
Really and truly and only kinda spiritually yours,