One of the first challenges to my rudimentary and shaky views on spirituality came, while I was still studying in high school, in India. One day, during our catechism class, our Spiritual Director, a Jesuit priest, asked the class, “Why are you a Christian?” The question was sort of unexpected in a catechism class and all of us answered, in one voice, “Because we are baptized, Father!”
He said, “Yes”, but also said, “Go find out for yourselves and come and see me one day.” Many years ago, back on one of my trips to India, I went to see him again, this time by appointment, as he was the Jesuit Provincial then and gave him my answer. He barely remembered me, as many years had passed, but remembered his question and smiled and said that very few had come back. He was glad that I came to visit and bring him an answer.
He left me with another question, before leaving, though which I’m still probing an answer for. Some other day on that one, though.
At first thought, spirituality may be dismissed as abstract, elusive, and even irrelevant today in modern times, but I think that the reality is that it is the most overlooked and the most needed element of our lives.
We may claim to be religious but, “How spiritual are we?” and “How can we be more successful at it?”, are a few questions that you and I can attempt to ask ourselves today.
A good place to start would be to ask ourselves, “What does spirituality mean to me?”
Each of us may answer it differently and that is acceptable, if it helps us achieve the goal of getting closer and closer to the Lord.
One way to think of spirituality is that it is our journey in life, to desire and attain holiness as individuals and as a faith community. When we attempt to achieve that, we are enriched by the presence of the Lord our God, in our lives here and eternally. Every person’s spiritual journey is different, although our goals are similar.
Our call to Holiness
Imperfect and unworthy, as we all are, we are all called to be holy.
Being holy doesn’t mean we have to be pure and perfect. The Lord understands that we aren’t, and we can never be, but HE requires us to be holy.
Another way to say it could be that holiness is the closest that we can get to a state of an acceptable temporal purity in the eyes of the Lord. It also means that we need to recognize that we constantly need the grace to identify and reconcile our failings, with the Lord, first in our personal spiritual spaces and then in the space of confession.
Being holy is a shield that we all need to have and strive for and that is indeed a grace and a gift from the Lord.
1 Peter 1:16: For it is written,
‘Be holy, as I am holy’
Only when we are holy, the Lord considers blessing us with Wisdom.
I invite us to take a few moments and ask ourselves, as we reflect on our own spiritual journeys,
- Where are we in our own spiritual journeys?
- Can we help others to continue their spiritual journeys?
Exploring Paths to Holiness through our journey of Spirituality
One way to look at our spiritual journey, is to view it as a cycle that can be thought of as continuous, explorative, self-calibrating and reinforcing.
None of these states shown above are easy and as you would agree, involve immense reflection, prayer, and grace from the Lord.
The Church also provides us with a guiding light and a compass, in the form of faith formation and Sacraments, but it is up to us to open our eyes and hearts to the Lord’s call and find our way to HIM and never let HIM go.
The reality though is that each one of us is continually circling, probing, and sometimes struggling in some of the early states above.
You may also agree that we have not entered a state of spiritual rhythm that the Lord wants us to achieve. We may try to enter in and out of various states above, from time to time and find our way around.
Each of these states may also lead us to an encounter with the Lord. When that encounter happens, it is that grace that leads us into the next state and reinforces our faith. I’m sure, some of us may have had life changing experiences in our families, when we experience the supernatural, divine presence of the Lord. The moments, when there is no way out and a powerful miracle touches our lives from the inside-out. The moment of unbounding joy, when everything else fails and when only a prayer leads to a miracle. And at some other times, it is the simple moments that slowly build our spiritual endurance.
The Lord expects us to continually recall and give thanks for both the simple and life changing moments, while we continue our spiritual journeys.
A prayer, which can be a start and a spiritual catalyst for all of us, including me.
Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen, and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that, I may become as holy as I should…
Here’s a song that came from within me, as I was reflecting on this theme.
I invite you to sing and reflect with me.
In your palms O Lord, we begin our life inscribed,
In your image Lord, aren’t we all described?
The world then unfolds and the sun shines around us,
Why then does its light fail to put out the darkness that sometimes surrounds us?
The days awake around us, the voices grow louder within and around us.
How are we led to think that the tree of knowledge is what surrounds us?
A silence that deafens, while the voices that grow louder race to reach us,
They say, “Isn’t life all but what’s here around us?”
Oh, how we ignore the silence that shouts back at us,
When your words, O Lord, have no space left to surround us!
Our eyes open, our minds grow,
And we fail to recognize your hand that searches for us,
Nor hear your whisper that waits and waits to find us!
Until one day, we can’t wait to hear the Lord, say,
“Somewhere, sometimes, you’ve lost sight, but not your way,”
“My voice, but not your stay and my way.”
Shower your grace, with your love to surround us,
Lead us, to follow you, from within us, to you, we wait to come,
Open our eyes, to see the steps that you want us to take,
Open our hearts to the love that your embrace opens for us!
Every moment, then, a blessing, that you prepare,
Every voice then, that you want us to hear.
Every step then, that you lead us to take,
Every hand then, that builds for you.
Every smile then, that shines for you.
To your home Lord, we shout as we say,
Is where we will walk with you to belong!
Let us continue together in faith, in our spiritual journeys, driven by a deep desire for holiness and eternal life …
All praise and glory, now and forever be to our Lord Jesus Christ.