May 02, 2018
[A slightly edited 1987 column by Bill Lewellis, published in a daily newspaper]
Our spiritual journey is a relationship. No two are the same. Still, a reasonable construct which draws on the experiences of many, including St. Paul and St. John, suggests God is not only the end of the journey but also its beginning.
The journey begins when God speaks. "In the beginning was the Word..." (John 1: 1).
God speaks first. Theologians call this revelation. It has to do with God introducing Godself by way of the created world, the prophets of old and new, our experiences, the Jewish and Christian scriptures, our families and friends, the wisdom of the ages, our critical faculties and our desires, the Word made flesh, our church communities, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
"In times past," the Letter to the Hebrews begins, "God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son...the reflection of the Father's glory, the exact representation of the Father's being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word."
Through so many ways and people -- most of all in Jesus -- we continually discover who God is, who we are, and how we are related to God and with one another.
Through the questions we ask and the evidence we interpret, we experience a few insights. We sometimes see the light. We have visions. We make judgments. We discover meaning.
Our pilgrimage with God began because God spoke, gave us a mind to wonder, put a yearning in our hearts, sent his Word to lead us on and light our way.
Lacking our appropriate response, the journey stalls. Response equals lifestyle, conduct, relationships with our sisters and brothers. Does our lifestyle celebrate the incredible revelation that God loves us? By our lifestyle, do we give thanks for who we are as a result of God's reaching out to us?
Over and over again, in a variety of ways, St. Paul tells us to conduct ourselves in certain ways not because law hangs over us but because life dwells within us.
You are a new creation in Christ, Paul says. Celebrate the gift. Celebrate life. You won't find precisely those words in any one verse of Paul's letters. In many verses and many chapters, however, you will find the thought.
Biblical scholars have called it the Pauline "Indicative-Imperative." The indicative is the statement of fact, i.e., "You are a new creation in Christ." The statement of fact is followed by a moral command, the imperative, i.e., "Therefore, be... (Live accordingly)." The imperative's authority is not law above but life within, life worth celebrating.
I wish I understood decades ago what I think I understand about the spiritual journey now. It would not have made the journey more focused, less clouded by irrelevance.