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Own Your Spirituality

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

We are often told that one of the most important ways to stay healthy is to keep moving - not to become sedentary. But human nature is forever tempting us to do just the opposite. We might prefer to order in, and vicariously enjoy adventures like Survivor or Lord of the Rings, rather than make the effort to explore for ourselves.

The need to keep moving applies to our spiritual well-being as well as our physical well-being. God has been nudging us to move, to wander, to grow, to explore, since the Book of Genesis. But we usually choose to stop, settle in, protect, and then defend ourselves.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a prime example of the tension between God’s hope for us and our human tendency to do the opposite. The Tower of Babel is the last story in the primeval section of the Book of Genesis. This story comes after Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, after Cain kills Abel, and after the great flood wipes out all of humanity, save for Noah and his family. All creation is renewed and God commands humanity to begin again – to go forth, fill the earth and make it prosper.

But instead of separating and moving into lands unknown to them, the people come upon a valley that they like and decide to build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and make a name for ourselves (Gen 11:4). This building project, which to us might seem like a reasonable idea, ends up derailing the people from following God’s mission for them. God muses: If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do (Gen 11:6).

God renders them unable to communicate with one another on their common project. The people scatter, which redirects them to the job they were meant to be doing all along, i.e., going forth and filling the earth.

Neither God’s vision of prosperity for us, nor our basic human nature, seem to have changed much in the thousands of years since Genesis was recorded. Christianity’s great commandment is not unlike God’s commandment to the people of Babel – go out and fill the earth, although this time the prosperity we are called to bring is the Good News.

In the two thousand years since Jesus gave us the command to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28: 19), we built the Catholic Church - a great shining city with a tower reaching to the heavens. Many of us settled within its walls and became sedentary. We followed the rules, attended Mass, educated our children, and prayed the rosary, believing that was what made a “good Catholic.” We forgot about the sacred journey.

Twenty years ago, massive seismic flaws were revealed in the institutional structure of the Church. One of the most catastrophic was that the most vulnerable within our community were being sexually abused.

As a result, many left the Church. Those of us who stayed were also changed. We often appear to be speaking different languages. We are like the scattered people of Babel – unable to communicate and living in polarized camps of ideology and defensive certitude. God did not destroy the city and tower of Babel, nor will the Catholic Church be destroyed. I believe that, like the people of Babel, we are being redirected towards God’s vision and purpose for us. It is time to set aside our sedentary Catholic lifestyles and once again take up the sacred journey.

One way to do that is to work with a spiritual director, which has always been part of the Christian tradition. Find someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you examine your life, your faith, and the movement of the Spirit within them both.

Another journey toward a deeper faith life is to join a small faith-sharing group. We are communal creatures. Small faith-sharing groups meet a very practical need: the need to belong. Jesus himself started with a small group of twelve apostles who learned and grew through being together.

Beyond belonging, small groups provide a place to hear each other’s faith stories, which can dramatically expand the faith horizons of each individual member.

Time is a limited commodity and, frankly, we often use it badly. We build our towers, committing to things that are temporal and will pass away. We spend our energy growing in every way except in the love and knowledge of Christ.

A course adjustment is coming for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has started making the shift, but he can’t do this on his own. We ARE the Church, which means that the Church is only as spiritually fit as we are. By committing to spiritual direction or a small group, you are declaring to yourself, your schedule, and all who know you, that your faith is a priority in your life. Let’s be the vision of Church we want to see in the world.

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