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Three Stages of Spirituality

Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?- Mathew 8:26

The shock waves generated from the recent incident at St Thomas College, Pala, have still not abated among students, parents and the public at large. TV channels were agog with details of the young girl’s story. A poor economic background, a house that was built through charitable donations, and a sickly mother who had pinned all her hopes on this bright, young girl. Just as life had begun to bloom with color and hope, everything came crashing down to a fatal end.

Shakespeare was right when he said -When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions,- and this is not restricted to one-off tragic incidents like these. Ever since the pandemic overtook our lives we have been in the midst of a rising ocean of collapsing businesses and growing debts. Added to that, inspite of vaccines, the generation is still reeling under the scourge of Covid infections and their aftermath. Tens of thousands have been orphaned, many remain jobless, and when the burdens seem too difficult to bear, people slip into deep depressions, or worse still, they decide to end their lives.

This brings us to the question of how we can deal with critical situations that bring untold suffering into our lives, or lead us through long periods of relentless mental agony. Most of us turn to prayer and sacrifice, fervently asking God for a miracle to control, or even possibly reverse the crisis at hand. If a church visit is not feasible, there are plenty of online adoration and healing services that bring consolation to people across the world. Often our prayers are answered in most unexpected and miraculous ways.

But there are also many cases where it seems that our prayers remain unheard for a long time, and we turn away from the Lord and seek new pastures. George was one such business entrepreneur who lost everything during the pandemic downturn. Along with his family, he too prayed for a miracle; but nothing happened and things went from bad to worse. In course of time, his prayers ceased, and instead, he went to the best known fortune tellers and miracle men who took his money and gave him magic medallions, along with false predictions of future prosperity!

If we have had similar experiences in our lives, we have to understand that we are in a state of deep spiritual crisis, and this surpasses any misfortunes that life brings our way. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is a three-stage process. In the Bible we encounter Him initially changing water into wine at Cana in Galilee. We are powerfully attracted to Jesus the healer, as he heals the sick, delivers people of demonic possessions and even raises the dead to life. During this initial stage of spirituality, we are easily persuaded to become His followers and pray fervently for miracles in our own lives. There are no commitments, and we are happy to be at the receiving end of His infinite blessings. The faith we develop prompts us to read His Word, and we expose ourselves to Jesus the Teacher. This is the second stage. We not only understand what Christianity is, we are also required to assimilate His teachings and literally be ‘born again’ spiritually. The upward climb to the second stage of spirituality is not easy. Many of us falter at this point. We try to mix convenient cocktails comprising of prayer, philanthropy, dishonesty, luxurious living, vengefulness – all put together to retain our hold on both worlds. This simply does not work with God. Our relationship loses strength and we slip down. We continue to pray for miracles and blessings, and when they are not forthcoming, we turn away to ‘other Gods.’

Those who successfully scale the second stage reach the highpoint of their relationship with Christ, as they encounter Him through His passion and death on the cross. This is the third and final stage that gives Christianity its essence and meaning. We begin to understand our suffering from the perspective of the suffering of Christ. The physical pain, false accusations, the shame of dying as a convicted criminal, the deepest sorrow of feeling forsaken by His Father, and His crucifixion and death on the cross— Jesus was not spared of any of this. And yet God the Father built the grand plan of Man’s redemption through the suffering and death of Christ.

Suffering is an inevitable part of life, and is part of God’s plan for us. It is the means by which we can align ourselves with Christ’s suffering and share the glory of His resurrection. It is final proof of our relationship to Christ, not only as healer and teacher, but as the sacrificial lamb. When God remains silent through painful moments of our lives, we must remember the Father’s devastating silence when Jesus pleaded with God to take His cup of suffering away. But, along with that, God sent an angel to strengthen Him. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that even while he was carrying His cross He consoled the women who met Him on the way, forgave all those who had persecuted Him, promised Paradise to the repentant sinner, gave humanity the priceless gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and finally commended His spirit into the hands of His Father.

So whenever we are driven to a point of despair, whenever we fail to see light at the end of the tunnel, trust that the Lord has you on His shoulders, and will walk you through your difficult moments. If we remain faithful, St. Peter makes this solemn promise to us-, And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”1 Peter 5:10

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