Growing in the Spiritual Life

12-17-2017HomiliesFr. Chad King

Two weeks ago, I was on a personal retreat- where I learned more about the 3 stages or ways of the Spiritual life; which some of the Saints, like St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and Francis de Sales, among others, describe to us. The first is the Purgative way, in which we are purged and purified of our sins, particularly our serious mortal sins. The second is the Illuminative way, in which God illumines and shines His light upon our hearts, minds, and wills in a deeper way and we are lifted, raised to higher level in our Spiritual life. And third stage, the Unitive way, is in which our entire hearts, souls,   and spirits, and even our wills are one with God's, we are perfectly one and united with God. This Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive way are the 3 stages that every person will have to go through in order to enter Heaven. We are all called to go through these on earth, but most people will finish up in Purgatory. For in Heaven, everyone is perfectly one with God.

I was reminded of these 3 stages of the Spiritual life when I read the last verses in our 2nd reading. "May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it". God, who calls you to perfection and holiness, is faithful. He is faithful to his calling, and his call does not change or lessen your individual call to holiness. But also, He will accomplish it. God, with our cooperation, will make every person holy and perfect, guaranteed. He will work with those individuals who desire and are open to life eternal perfection in heaven. But, we must be actively seeking Him, it is necessary that in this season of Advent we reflect on how open we are to who God is and what he wants to do in our spiritual life.

In our Gospel, the Jews wondered and sent their leaders to find out who John the Baptist was, they asked, “Who are you, what do you have to say for yourself?” So, I ask you to reflect, in this past week, who were you, what do you have to say about yourself? Perhaps you were running around doing so many things, so many places to go, errands to run. Perhaps you were planning, organizing, maybe obsessing, over so many events that are to come. Through all the busyness and things that went through your mind and heart this past week, if God was not a part of and influencing all the emotions you experienced last week, then He is calling you to let him in deeper and closer. He is calling you to a deeper relationship with Him. Some people are broken-hearted at the loss of a loved one and the memories of the holidays they had together. Some are held captive by their own sin or unforgiveness. Some of you might feel like a prisoner and trapped in some way. No matter what you have experienced, what comes our way in the future, God wants us to be able to say, as our 1st reading says, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul”. And so I ask you, spiritually, how are you doing, or what do you feel you need to do to rejoice fully in the Lord? Perhaps you’re thinking, well I need to cut this sin out of my life, or I need to work on that area or that relationship in my life, or perhaps you’re saying I need to pray more. Those are all good things to work on, but it is not only our job to do the work. Some people see that their spiritual life is like a mountain they have to climb. And certainly, climbing a mountain is a good analogy for our spiritual life, after all, the Saints mentioned above use it, and indeed, ascending our way closer to God in our spiritual life is hard work and it takes much effort.

However, the problem with that analogy is that it makes God out there, over there on top of that holy mountain that we have to climb to reach. My brothers and sisters, God is not waiting for us to climb the mountain of our spiritual life. The amazing message and truth of our faith and this Advent season is that God is not so much Someone whom we have to ascend to. No, God comes to us. God descends down to us first, he meets us where we are at. Listen again to our 1st reading, which is basically Jesus saying to you and I, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners”. God is actively pursuing you, right now, and at each and every moment. We just have to allow ourselves to be found, and let him in. As I said, we are all called to grow and become holy and without blemish. But, our becoming Holy is not so much what we do. God is so much better at it then we could ever hope to be. Our job is to always desire to be open, and cooperate with how He wants to make us holy. So we have to let him into the darkness, the sin, the busyness, the laziness, the chaos of our lives. He is with us in it, and when we are ready, He raises and elevates us higher out of the mess and closer and closer to Him.

So, if you feel brokenhearted or captive and a prisoner in any way, let God into that emotion. Let the love of God fill the emptiness you feel. If you said, I need to cut a certain sin out of my life. Good, think of what that sin is, and instead of trying to hide it from God, which is our human nature-as Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in their shame, we are called to invite God into our sin and shame and not try to deal with it on our own. Start by letting God into that desire to rid yourself from that sin, and ask him to detach the attraction to it. To help, you are invited to come to the Sacrament of Confession, there is no better way than regular confession to help us continually be growing in our spiritual life. For your convenience, in addition to the usual times, we are offering Confessions this Tuesday through Friday at 7-8pm. In addition to our morning 8:15 am mass we are celebrating mass every evening at 6pm until Saturday the 23rd, there is no powerful way to become intimate with Jesus than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Please use these sacraments to prepare your heart this week.

I want to leave you with these helpful tips from the second reading. “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks. And do not quench the Spirit”. How do you pray without ceasing you might ask? Spend some time in prayer every morning and invite God into your day. And ask that throughout the day you will keep our Lord in your mind and heart. With all the people you encounter, all the joys and struggles, all the burdens and anxieties that come your way, bring God into them. In all circumstances, give thanks. Give thanks that He is with you through everything, and there is nothing that you can’t handle, with Him. No matter what comes, thank Him, for God can use everything for our good. And finally, “don’t quench the Spirit”. Don’t quench, don’t become satisfied, don’t feel like you’ve had enough of the Spirit; but always be wanting more. Let us never stop desiring more and more of God, he is always initiating, and we will not be satisfied until we are perfectly united with Him in heaven.