The Spiritually Mature Person

     If the faith of a child does not develop into the faith of an adult, it can result in a view of religion that is childish, outmoded, and of no influence in adult life.  We see this today in people who bring to their individual lives, work, businesses, professions, and politics, a faith they learned as a child.  In every sense, it's a mismatch.                                                                                            Bernard Lonergan, S. J



Spirituality pertains to our personal and social evolution
 toward maturity in wholeness in love
 in and through our personal experience of God in our everyday life. 

   Spirituality differs from our dogmatic evolution as we deepen our belief in the teachings of the Church, and from our moral evolution as we obey the moral laws of the church.

    Today's spirituality calls for us first to clear our imagination of all the images we have of God, e.g., Father, Shepherd, Lord, The Old Man with the beard in the sky, and particularly, as a Being.  These images may indeed be helpful, they can also be an obstacle to our mature experience of God.  

    In today's view of the spiritually mature person, we do not understand God as a Being.  We understand God as BEING ITSELF, as EXISTENCE ITSELFGod is the Ultimate Source of all that existsEvery being in the universe, atom, element, galaxy, planet, plant, animal, person, is an expression of BEING, EXISTENCE ITSELF.  in sum, we exist because EXISTENCE exists.  

    God, INFINITE/ETERNAL EXISTENCE, is Infinite, inexhaustible, living, reality, truth and love, Who completely fills the universe.  The universe can be said to be "saturated" with God.  Teilhard de Chardin said, we live in a "divine milieu."

   To paraphrase a Jewish saying, if you want to "see" God, look around you and within yourself.

    Finally and of greatest importance for us, God is INFINITE/ETERNAL, ALL-PRESENT, OVERFLOWING LOVE. So the universe, the world, and us are filled with love. 

    OVERFLOWING LOVE becomes recognizable to us in the form of CREATIVE LOVE: God is our Creator; HEALING AND REDEEMING LOVE: God is with us as Christ, our Redeemer and Savior; and EVOLVING LOVE: God is the source and energy of the evolution of the world and of our evolution toward ever greater wholeness in love.

   We can truthfully say the the universe is made of love.  The earth is made of love.  The world is made of love.  We are made of love.         
                                     ACTIVE, PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY  

   Spirituality is active and practical.  It moves us ever forward toward inner transformation and toward fulfilling Jesus' prayer, "Thy kingdom come...on earth."  Spirituality moves and guides us toward creating of world of ever greater wholeness in love.
   We are called and empowered to prayerfully build up this world: ourselves, families, communities, education, politics, economics, sciences, arts, etc., aiming to make them ever more loving, just, peaceful, joyful, etc., by helping make them more luminously human in the grace of Christ. (See; The Spiritual Disciplines in this Blog.) 

    As we work, we gather up our efforts and gratefully place the results at the altar in worship of God.  Then, from the altar, we go out again to gather up the world anew.  And so, the dynamic flow of our spirituality goes on and on.  (See Vatican II, The Liturgy)                                                                                                
   The Kingdom of God will never be fully achieved here on earth.  The weeds will always grow alongside the wheat.  Our focus is to "grow the wheat" as well as we can, and leave the results to God.          

                                      EVERYDAY MYSTICS AND PROPHETS  

SPIRITUALITY makes us:   
         a.  Everyday Mystics: 
                 A mystic is a person of faith who can see what is hidden from atheists and agnostics,  The great mystics can see visions.  We everyday mystics can and do discern God's presence and intentions within ourselves, e.g., our vocations.  And we can discern God's presence and intentions within today's society and culture, i.e., we can spiritually "read signs of the times" and discern how God's wants us to transform ourselves in God's image, and build God's Kingdom in and for today's society and culture.

             We discern God's presence and intentions in terms of our age, gender, race, national origin, culture, personality, history, etc.  We therefore have to be careful to look into ourselves and make sure we are correctly discerning God's intentions, and not our own, e.g., politically, economically, socially.  We do this by comparing our personal discernment with the Faith of the entire People of God.
   Some cultures favor profit over care of the poor, or show a negative attitude toward children.  Such views cannot be our true discernment of God's intentions.  (See the Page, "Experiencing God Today," in this Blog.)

         b.  Everyday Prophets
                A prophet is not someone who can tell the future.  A prophet is someone who proclaims and applies what he/she discerns.  
                As everyday prophets, we humbly, peacefully and lovingly work to elevate ourselves, and our society and culture in order to make ourselves and others more luminously human in the grace of Christ.

         c.  Sharers in Christ's royal office,
                 Besides elevating ourselves and our society and culture, we humbly, peacefully and lovingly work to correct and heal ourselves, our society and culture in Christ's self-giving, healing and saving grace.

    Since we can easily mistake our own cultural or personal preferences for God's intentions, we cannot walk our spiritual journey alone. We walk along with all the other members of our faith, and with all people of good will.  

   We especially walk our spiritual way by living the Beatitudes and the Spiritual  Disciplines.  (See, "The Spiritual Disciplines" page in this blog.)


    The Christian View of the Person

   As we saw above we see a person as someone, (not somethingwho is created by GOD in God's image:   

       In GOD the Creator, we are creative.
       In God the Son, we are Caring and Healing
       In God the Holy Spirit, we are World Transforming and Evolving

          In God, One and Trinity, Who is Infinite/Eternal Wholeness in Love, we live to move the world forward, helping it to evolve ever closer to wholeness in love. 

                         The Traditional Philosophical View of the Person

    According to our philosophical view of a person, we have traditionally thought of a Person as a "reasoning animal," who has a body and soul. The idea of body and soul comes from Greek philosophy, and goes back as far as the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. 

    Plato said that each of us is a soul who pre-existed in a world "up there" somewhere.  We knew everything.  We then "came down" and were placed in our body.  But the shock of being placed in our body caused us to forget everything we knew.  So our life consisted of keeping our body in the best possible condition, and especially contemplating the higher things so that we could remember what we forgot and find the truth, which lives in the ideas we forgot.  Truth lies in our attaining the ideas that we forgot when we were born.  Our goal was to work to attain perfection by getting our soul (our self) out of our body, especially away from our passions--and getting back to where we came from.  This led Catholics to develop the notion of getting out of this world and saving our soul. (See The Post: The Mistake of Avoiding the World, on this Blog.)

    Aristotle said we did not pre-exist, and that our soul and body were both a natural part of our self.  We are born with a blank mind ("tabula rasa") and have to learn everything.  The virtuous life is to live in moderation and attain, not perfection, but ever greater happiness. Happiness was not only our final goal but our everyday experience as we lived a virtuous life.

   Today's spirituality requires a radically new, unified, 21st century, understanding of a Person.  Today's scientific view is especially important in our understanding of a spiritually mature person.
Today's Scientific View of the Person     

     Unhappily, much of today's science is materialistic, i.e., it sees the universe as a non-living, non-conscious, material machine.  Such a machine carries no real meaning in itself and acts for no real purpose.  In this view, we are the only fully conscious beings in the universe.  We sense and measure things in the material universe.  If something cannot be sensed or measured, it either doesn't exist, or it is not important.  Such scientists say that the material universe is all that exists, and so they automatically exclude anything that is not matter, i.e, what we call spiritual.  They therefore automatically exclude the existence of GOD, before they start their scientific research.    

      We will look at today's scientific view of the person with our Christian eyes, mind and heart.  

       We are created by God within the natural process of the evolving earth.  (See the Page in this Blog:  "A New Creation Story.")


This section can be difficult for some readers.  I would sincerely appreciate your comments on how to make it easier to understand.  I include it because it is of basic importance to our 21st century understanding of a person, i.e., of who we are, and therefore, of the spiritually mature person.

   According to today's science, the universe is made of ENERGY.   We can describe energy that the ability or potential to do work or to produce something or someone.

   We do not see or experience energy in itself.  Rather, we can only experience energy in what/who it produces, in the way it shows up to us, e.g., as atoms, molecules, stars, galaxies, gravity, earth, magnetism, electricity, light, heat, plants, animals, and people.  Everything that exists is a particular expression and form of energy. 

   In today's scientific view, a person therefore, is a focus or form of  energy.  Each of us is energy that is showing up in a particular form, namely, as a human person, and not, e.g., as a cat, or ape, etc.
   The particular focus of energy that we are is our ENTIRE SELF. Today, we use the word, "soul" to mean our entire self, showing up as our body-mind-spirit self.  This usage is something we have to get used to.  Each of us a one, unified, body-mind-spirit person. (I will explain this more fully below.)

                                                          OUR HUMAN ESSENCE

   "Essence" answers the question, "What is it?"  Our essence is Human. All human beings share the same human essence.  We are truly one global community of brothers and sisters.  Our common humanity is the natural basis for Jesus' instruction for us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Even though we are all distinct individuals, as humans we are all truly one.  

    As humans, each of us is endowed with human dignity and sacredness in the form of unity, reason, will, emotions, integrity, dignity, freedom, respect, openness to knowledge and truth, beauty, a longing for the infinite, a transcendent purpose and destiny, and immortality.   

   Since each of us is a creative, healing and world-transforming expression of love, we are always becoming, always evolving--along a "bumpy road"--toward wholeness in love.  We are never still.  If we don't move forward toward wholeness in love, we move backward toward separation and chaos.  (Look at our present society.)

   Our evolution toward wholeness in love begins here in space/time but will not be fulfilled in space/time.  We will reach total fulfillment in the "new Jerusalem," the eternal condition (not place) that we call "heaven".


                                                     OUR HUMAN NATURE 

    As human beings, we have a human NATURE.  Our nature tells HOW OUR ESSENCE BEHAVES, i.e., HOW WE BEHAVE AS HUMANS.  For example, a cat's nature is to behave with curiosity.  A dog's nature is to be faithful.  Our human nature is to behave in a RATIONAL, REASONING, CREATIVE, CARING AND HEALING, EVOLVING and LOVING way.  

    As humans, we are responsible to act according to Natural Law, i.e., to act according to our human nature as described above.  For example, it is natural for us to be rational and reasonable, or to help someone who has been hurt. When we hate, cheat, kill, etc., we act against our human nature.  We demean our humanity. 
    After World War II, the Allies tried and convicted Nazi leaders for "Crimes Against Humanity."  The leaders' defense was that they were following the laws of that time.  In sum, what they did was legal.  The judges convicted them by appealing to the Natural Law, which is higher than positive law, i.e., to what is legal.  They said that the leaders acted against human nature.

                       --------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                                 .

                                            ONE BODY-MIND-SPIRIT PERSON        
   The energy that we are is physically recognizable in the form of our physical human body.  Our body makes us able to be physically present, i.e., to be sensed, recognized and located in space and time.   

   Our body is made of energy particles that "nests" to form our atoms, molecules, cells,muscles, skin, bone, eyes, organs, etc.  Our body gives us physical motion and strength, emotions and passions, bodily systems.  Also, our energy-self creates our brain that enables us to imagine, picture, and remember what our senses tell us.  Our brain doesn't think; we think.  Our brain is like a computer that processes what we think.  (See more at "Mind" below.)

   Today's scientists see our body as organized bits of "information."  This information originated from the "big bang" 13.8 billion years ago, when our electrons were created, and from 4.5 billion years ago, when an exploding star resulted in the creation of the earth and all the other elements that make up our body.  We are literally made of star-stuff!   

   God's action in our individual creation makes the energy that is ourselves eternal. Once it is created it will never die.  When we die, our energy-information becomes temporarily unable to express itself in our space/time physical way. So our body-information disintegrates and goes back into the energy of the universe/world in the form of memory. The earth and universe remember that we existed, so in a real sense, we are still physically present after we die.  

    Our eternal energy-self also remembers our body.  At the resurrection of our body, our eternal self will once again become recognizable as our body--but we will now have a radically changed, eternal body.   


      Our body puts us in the category of "animal."  We are rational animals.  We are therefore also recognizable by our desire and ability to think, i.e., to reason, intuit, know, and understand. 
      Our mind basically moves us to ask, "What is real, true, good and beautiful?"  With our mind, we can a) create ideas, b) organize them into ever evolving areas of understanding, e.g., mathematics, politics, history, literature, medicine, psychology, etc., and c) develop and remember our ideas and the various areas of understanding in our intellectual memory, and evolve in understanding through observation, research and education.  Our mind doesn't think and understand; we think and understand.

  Today's materialistic scientists, e.g., Richard Dawkins, say that our mind is actually only the electrical activity of our brain.  In short, today's materialistic scientists say that our brain creates our mind.  We say that our mind creates our brain to process what our mind does.  Our brain doesn't think.  Our mind doesn't think.  We think. 


    There are many meanings of the word, "spirit."  In this context, we understand spirit as follows:  Our ENERGY-SELF focuses us so keenly and sharply that each of us is recognizable as a unique, individual person, as someone, e.g., as Mary, or John, or Joseph, or Susan.  Our spirit gives us our individual, personal self-consciousness.   
   Our "spirit," therefore, is who we mean when we say, "I," or "me."  
   (The Liturgical response, "And with your spirit," does not mean, "And with your spirit but not your body," but means, "And with you, wholly and personally.") 

    As noted, we are not only individual persons, but unique, individual persons. There never was nor ever shall be another person exactly like each of us. 

    As unique, conscious subjects, we are not mere objects.  We must never permit ourselves to be used as objects, and we must never use others as objects. 

Individuals in Community
     Because of our common humanity, we are unique persons in communityWe are unique, social personsWe cannot humanly live and evolve in total isolation from other people and from nature and the whole universe.  We are meant to live with one another and to love one another.   

Further Considerations of the Whole Person

As individual human persons, we are endowed with free will.  

       Our free will is our ability to bring our mind, body, and spirit into sync, so that we can know what is right, make conscious, meaningful and purposeful decisions, and do what is right.  We can accept credit for knowing and doing what is right, and we must accept accountability or blame for knowing and doing what is wrong.

   Being incomplete and having a shadow-side (Cf. "An Evolution Story"), we can and do sometimes make bad judgments and act against our knowledge and understanding of what is right,  e.g., we know and understand that smoking is harmful; yet many of us smoke.  

   We can also act unknowingly, or be forced to act against our will.  Also, true ignorance, confusion, force and fear, diminish our freedom and therefore diminish our responsibility and blame.

   We are living, acting participants in the universe.    

    The universe is an interwoven, inter-connected and inter-related web of unity.  The universal web of "individuals-in-community" is the basic pattern of the universe.  As created expressions of the universe, we are built to live in accord with the inter-connected, inter-related pattern of the universe.

   God/Divinity is lovingly present within the entire universe, within every sub-atomic particle, every energy relationship, every evolving expression--within every part and within the entire whole.  God is the Creative, Healing, and World-Evolving, Living Love within the universe, lovingly watching the universe from within as it moves forward toward wholeness in love in its own natural way.     

  The individual parts fulfill their meaning only within the interwoven, nested whole.  If a part separates itself from the whole, it loses its individual meaning and dies.  For example, the individual person fulfills him/herself only within the whole of society and nature.  If a person separates him/herself from the whole of society and nature, he/she loses his/her meaning and begins to die.  There is a Greek word for a person who uncaringly separates him/herself from others, nature and God.  That word is, "idiot."

   For example, a Trappist monk, who is physically separated from the world in general, can become fully himself only if he is in love with God and the whole world.  

   We are also individuals-in-community-here-on-earth.  It is impossible to understand ourselves without the earth as part of our lives and meaning.  Even in eternity, we will live in an unimaginably transformed, eternal earth.

   Finally, we are also individuals-in-community-here-on-earth-in-a-particular-situation.  We do not live in some abstract, ideological bubble.  It is impossible to understand ourselves outside of our particular experiences and situations. Sadly, we see many of today's politicians and businesses operating within self-serving ideological bubbles, disconnected from the everyday experiences and situations of the world in general and of the people they are responsible to serve.  
      Spiritually Mature Persons are Self-transcending                                               Persons 

      To avoid the linguistic clumsiness of he/she, I will use the plural, "spiritual persons."

 Spiritually mature persons hear/feel themselves being called by nature and God into the future, from the future, to ever evolving wholeness in love.  They are constantly working to transcend their present self and to evolve into new selves with greater and deeper meaning, wholeness and fulfillment in love.  

   As sensitive individuals-in-community, they see beyond themselves and their situation to the big picture, the whole picture. While they knowingly and lovingly develop their own individual views, they live and act in a way that shows that they see, respect, and take an active part in the community picture, the environmental picture, the national picture, the global picture, ecological picture, the universal picture. (Think of politicians who put their jobs, or their party, over the good of the whole country.)  
      Spiritually mature persons fulfill themselves by reaching out beyond their own limitations and views, working to fulfill and accommodate the true views and needs of others without losing their own integrity and fulfillment.  They work to fit everyone and everything into the picture in justice, peace and love, respecting each individual within the universal picture, and paying special attention to the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.  

     Spiritually mature persons know that the ultimate source and goal of unity and wholeness in love is God, who is present and active within the entire evolving community of the world, calling the world forward from the future

   The universe/world may be likened to a sponge that is immersed in water (God/Divinity) and saturated with water (God/Divinity).  The full, living, active presence of God/Divinity within the universe, world and ourselves makes the universe/world we live the the "Divine Milieu,"--even while evil is also present. We are not naive, we know that the wheat and the weeds will grow side by side until the end.

                Spiritually Mature Persons Live with 
                             a Spirit of Detachment  

   Spiritually mature persons live in deep, active engagement with others and nature, with the ability to let go when necessary. 

   Jesus told the rich young man to sell all his goods and give the money to the poor (Mt. 19) because he saw that the young man was attached to his wealth.  He was identifying himself by his wealth.  If he asked himself, "Who am I?" he would respond, "I AM a rich young man."  Jesus wanted him to detach himself from such a false and harmful self-identification and find his true self, which he could find only by emptying himself of his attachment and identifying himself as a child and image of God, and following Jesus--thus finding his true self.  

   It is morally acceptable--and necessary--to have money as long as we are not attached to it and to the things it can brings.

    Spiritually mature persons also work to help people detach themselves from harmful, disintegrating communities, e.g., racist or sexist communities, destructive political communities, militant communities, communities of the rich against the poor, etc.
        Spiritually Mature Persons Accept the Inevitable          
Suffering of Sickness, Losses and Death.      

    We Christians are not masochists.  We do not seek suffering and death, but seek relief, solace or medical treatment when we need them.  But suffering and death will inevitably come; and when they do, spiritually mature persons accept them.    

     Spiritually mature persons accept life's inevitable losses, setbacks, sickness, growing old, and death.  They let unavoidable pain be pain, and they evolve and mature spiritually--not despite their inevitable pain and suffering but in and through their inevitable pain and suffering, thus gaining new life through suffering and death, just as Jesus gave us new life through his suffering and death.   
Spiritually Mature Persons Use Their Imagination  

  Spiritual transformation and advancement begins with imagination.  Spiritually mature persons imagine new ways to transcend their present selves and to find new ways to help our world evolve into new relationships of love as we help move the world toward wholeness in love. 

   Imagination leads to intention.

Spiritually Mature Persons Activate Their 
Power of Intention

    Intention may be described as a purposeful plan to perform an action, which will lead to a desired outcome. (Author, Lynn McTaggart)  Intention strengthens our coherence with one another. Intention leads to commitment and to action. 

Spiritually Mature Persons are Persons of 
Commitment and Action

    They are "everyday prophets," i. e., they act on what God leads them to discern, and knowledgeably, peacefully and lovingly work to elevate our society and culture.  Where necessary, they also knowledgeably, peacefully, humbly and lovingly act to correct our society and culture, to make us all more luminously human and loving in the creative, healing and world-transforming love and grace of Christ.

  They actively live the Spiritual Disciplines.  (See the "Spiritual Disciplines" page on this blog.)

Spiritually Mature Persons are Persons of Prayer.  

Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation are discussed on their own page of this blog.


1 comment:

  1. Well, that is a boatload of information! Thank you,Tony! I am working with a group from Montana who are completing a paper on the Spirituality of the Faithful and an Old Testament professor here in Chicago Loyola has connected with them since they all have a similar interest. This interest was developed at the Detroit American Catholic Council last Pentecost and there are many dialogue groups that have evolved from same.

    I like the direction this is going. Wonderful discussion because if we truly believe we are the Church and simultaneously believe the Church must change then the individual believer must change!