The Obstacle to Spiritual Growth
Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)
After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.
In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.
Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.
The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.
Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.
That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.
Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….
Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Posted on January 27, 2022, in Catholic Theology, Celtic Prayer, Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged Church, discipleship, Life in Christ, spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.