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Chapter 28

Spiritual Balance

 

When we speak about peace
we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about truth and life and redemption,
we are speaking of Christ.
—St. Ambrose

 

 

Certain aspects of the spiritual life can be overemphasized or underemphasized at any given time.  For example, the Sacrament of Baptism is truly important and opens the door to the other sacraments, but it is not everything.  Baptism is the beginning, not the end.  Every Christian, baptized before the age of reason, still needs to go through a personal spiritual conversion that involves turning away from sin with their own free will and choosing to do God’s will.

Love and respect for the Blessed Virgin Mary are certainly necessary for anyone who wants to reach spiritual maturity.  While protecting us from the devil, Mary leads us to Jesus.  Still, Mary is a creature, not the Creator; the greatest of saints, not the Savior.  Devotion to her is part of our Catholic Faith, not the whole of it.  The Rosary is a beautiful prayer and highly recommended by the Church, but it is not required.  Just as all true Christians pray that they may fulfill God’s will, and The Four Step Prayer is one way of doing that, so also, a spiritual relationship with Mary Most Holy is the way of every saint, and praying the Rosary is one way of developing that, but not the only way.

Even the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist can be overemphasized.  By now, it should be obvious to everyone that the Holy Eucharist alone is not enough.  How many Catholics, including some clergy, received Holy Communion for years but did not follow Jesus Christ in their personal lives?  The Holy Eucharist did not convert them.  They still needed an interior spiritual conversion of their mind and heart and soul to go from self-seeking to seeking Jesus Christ before they could follow Him with love and devotion and fulfill His will, not their own.  Once a person has become a converted Christian, then the Holy Eucharist will indeed help them to grow in the spiritual life, and the more open to God they are, the more the Blessed Sacrament will be of benefit to them and to those for whom they pray.

Our relationship with the Holy Spirit can be underemphasized or neglected, but it can also be overemphasized or obsessive if it is at the expense of, and not for the purpose of, our relationship with Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6)  The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and helps us to follow Him.  Our Lord and Savior has a human nature that we can relate to.  “Walk by the Man (‘Son of Man’), and you will arrive at God, for it is better to limp on the right way, than to walk ever so stoutly by the wrong.” (St. Augustine)  Christ’s humanity is the “ladder” by which we climb to heaven, step by step, through our mystical union with Him in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  The life of Christ is the spiritual life.  The mysteries (events) of His life are the spiritual journey.  “No one comes to the Father, except through me,” by the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:6)  “Through (Christ) Him, and with (Christ) Him, and in (Christ) Him, to you, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, is all honor and glory, for ever and ever.” (Eucharistic Doxology)

Social Justice can, of course, be underemphasized, but it can also be overemphasized.  “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)  Helping the poor and needy, the corporal works of mercy, is certainly an important part of our Catholic Faith, but not the whole of it.  Love of neighbor is for love of God, not love of God for love of neighbor.  Action is for contemplation, not contemplation for action.  The physical is for the spiritual, not the spiritual for the physical.  The exterior is for the interior, not the interior for the exterior.  The lower is for the higher, not the higher for the lower.  The devil will try to draw you away from the higher to the lower, from the interior to the exterior.  If he cannot get you to sin, he will settle for a lesser good.

We should not underemphasize or overemphasize either justice or mercy.  When divine justice is overemphasized it leads to discouragement and a crippling fear from too strict a harshness.  When divine mercy is overemphasized it leads to laxity and presumption from too permissive a tolerance.  Either way, the result is a deeper separation from God’s will and prideful rebelliousness.  On the contrary, let everyone do their best, and God will do the rest.  Thus, we follow the way of faith, hope and charity, humility and honesty.

God wants us to have a healthy, whole and balanced spirituality that gives precedence to what is most important in the spiritual life while allowing for individual preferences.  Some are attracted to this or that saint, virtue or devotion (for example, Eucharistic or Marian), to a particular spiritual book or teaching, to a way of life or discipline.  The Lord is free to lead us as He pleases.  Follow what is in your soul and what you know to be true.  God wants us to grow, humanly and spiritually, body and soul, to maturity—filled full of His Divinity. (Eph. 3:19)  Remember, though, the body is for the soul, not the soul for body.

 

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