THAT’S the ideal that we should aim at. And let’s help one another to be spiritual and not just carnal. It’s not a matter of suppressing our sensual, material and earthly condition, but rather of going beyond that level. That’s where the road to the fullness of humanity can be found. That’s where we are freed from the constricting world of our senses, emotions and passions.
St. Paul said something to this effect. “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4,22-24)
In another instance, St. Paul talked about talking or preaching in a spiritual way and not just according to human and worldly wisdom. “My message and my preaching,” he said, “were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2,4-5)
More clearly, he said: “We speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Cor 2,13)
This is a big challenge for us all. We have to learn to think, speak and act in a spiritual way, and not just mainly conditioned by our sensual, material and worldly aspects.
When we see a person, thing or event, we should not get stuck in knowing their physical appearance or external characteristics alone. We should go beyond them, discerning the spirit that animates them. In this we have to train ourselves endlessly. We need to check if the spirit behind them is of God or not.
In this, we have received enough warnings from Sacred Scripture. “Beloved,” St. John, for example, in his first letter tells us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (Jn 4,1)
There are many kinds of spirits roaming around the world, and we have to learn how to discern them. There is the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ as opposed to the antichrist. There is also the evil spirit, and the spirit of the world that is dominated by the evil one.
St. Paul distinguished between the fruits of the Spirit of God and the works of the flesh dominated by the evil spirit. The former include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (cfr Gal 5,22-23)
The latter include fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing. (cfr Gal 5,19-21)
We have to learn to walk in the Spirit rather than to walk in the flesh. We have to train ourselves to think, speak and act in terms of our faith, and in intimate relationship with God and the saints. This is always possible and very doable.
Since we are made of flesh and spirit, we have to learn how to deal with these constitutive elements of ours, respecting their nature and character, observing the proper hierarchy between them, and grounding and orienting them properly.
The learning process may take a lot of time and effort, but it will all be worthwhile. We just have to proceed with it no matter what the costs. Setbacks and failures should not discourage us, but rather spur us to get closer to God and to begin again.
Our problem is that even among those who are supposed to be ¨spiritual¨ already because of their status in life—like priests and others supposedly active in Church affairs—there is so much ignorance, confusion, error, incompetence, inconsistency, pretension, hypocrisy, laziness, complacency in this regard.
We need to develop a working spirituality that would have a kind of mechanism, embedded into our personal system, that continually addresses the dangers all of us are exposed to and even prone to, like lust, greed, pride, rash judgments, etc.
To achieve this spirituality, we have to devise a realistic plan of spiritual life, consisting of practices of piety, well-defined yet flexible to varying circumstances, that would help us at least to stay in touch with God even as we get immersed in the things of the world.
We need to be always in the presence of God, ever quick to discern his will and ways every moment of our life. This is how we can be spiritual and not just carnal. (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)