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Fully Integrated Spiritual Life

Jules Toner, SJ tells us: “Human life is Christian life in the measure that it is lived under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of Christ.” In previous articles we have focused primarily on a Spirit-centered spirituality. However, for a fully integrated spiritual life, we need the inspiration of the Spirit, the intentionality of Jesus, and our personal awareness of the ongoing Incarnation in ourselves, in others, in community and in the real-time encounters of everyday life.

Spirit-centered. Our spirituality must be Spirit-centered to focus us on the Spirit’s inspiration. This focus sees God as dwelling within us, revealing us to ourselves, calling us to growth in our decision-making and handling of desolation, and giving of Himself in His consolations. Our goal is to develop a deep interior life with the Spirit, growing in awareness of the Spirit’s presence and inspirations in our life.

Incarnation-centered. Our spirituality must be Incarnation-centered (Resurrection-centered) to focus us on the on-going Incarnation in the human that results from Jesus’ Resurrection. This focus sees Jesus’ Spirit as present in us as His bodily instruments of compassion and communion to others. I am the hem of Jesus’ garment. He who touches me touches Jesus. You are the hem of Jesus’ garment. If I touch you, I touch Jesus, and His power will go out to me. It sees Jesus’ Spirit as present in our everyday lives and in community. Our goals are to become Jesus, a God with skin to others, and to experience the sacred in the secular.

Christ-centered. Our spirituality must be centered on the Historical Jesus to focus us on Jesus’ intentionality. What did Jesus think, feel, want? Encountering the mind, heart and will of Jesus in Scripture, we discover His intentionality—a lifetime process.  This focus sees God as entering into human history and taking on the form of a human being. It is as if God thought: “They will never understand how to become fully human beings unless I show them.” And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Our goal is to live according to the mind, heart and will of Jesus.

At the heart of this integrated spirituality is Jesus. It was Jesus who was made flesh and dwelt among us, and gave us the Good News. It was Jesus who gave us His Spirit as His last gift to us. It is Jesus who DWELLS among us, gifting us with His Spirit.

So why do we need a spirituality with a triple focus? Because each focus has a specific goal and a method for achieving that goal. For example, with a Spirit-centered  spirituality, we learned the rules for discerning the Spirit’s operation in our lives and the Awareness Examen to deepen our interior life with the Spirit.

This integrated spirituality can be depicted as a dynamic model with each focus interacting with the others. Through our Spirit-centered spirituality, the Spirit reveals the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life, which we are studying in our Christ-centered (Historical Jesus-centered) spirituality. We test our reactions to Jesus by reviewing them with the Spirit for deeper understanding and for greater willingness to do what Jesus asks of us. These two impact our Incarnation-centered spirituality which drives us to BEING the Christ that we are ALREADY. Our Incarnation-centered spirituality deepens the other two.

The danger of living only a Spirit-centered spirituality is that we might be content with our personal relationship with Jesus’ Spirit and forget Jesus’ mission that we are called to complete. The danger of living only a Historical Jesus-centered spirituality is that we may use the Gospels as a text book and feel confident that we can come to terms with Jesus by ourselves. And the danger of living the above two without living an Incarnation-centered spirituality is that we might ignore the presence of Jesus’ Spirit in real time, with real people, in the real circumstances of our lives.