I was golfing with one of our parishioners just this past week, and he mentioned just how much he had grown spiritually and how much his heart had been set on fire by the Holy Spirit. His realization of the reality of God and the Lord’s desire for us to know him individually and intimately have changed his life! I told him how, as a pastor, nothing delights me more than being a part of God healing, liberating, and transforming our parishioners’ lives!
There are people who wonder why it is that they have yet to experience God in that unmistakable way by which he reveals his divine presence to us whereby we know not just in our head, but in our heart, his truth, his goodness, and his beauty in our lives. Below are just six common obstacles in the spiritual life, a number of them related to each other.
Lack of desire.
We may want a relationship with God, but it may just be one thing we desire among a whole list of other things. And based on the testimony of our calendar and our checkbook, God may not be the top one on our list. But God is such that he is, as we heard in last week’s Gospel, the only one thing necessary. He is the only thing we should desire, and in that one desire for him, we can desire and love all of his created order rightly – everything from our family to the food at your next meal.
Our intention may very well be to have God be our one and only desire and love, as the greatest commandment Jesus teaches. But then, in this age of social media, mindless entertainment, and devices that call out to us, our spiritual A.D.D. gets in the way, and our hours and days get filled with things we know at the end of the day really don’t mean or matter to us all that much, especially when compared to things like our faith and our family, bringing us to the next obstacle.
Unwillingness to Purge.
Fr. Brian and I have both mentioned in our homilies about the three stages of the spiritual life: 1) the purgative, 2) the Illuminative, and 3) the unitive. Before God can illumine us with his liberating truth and unite himself to us (which is what happens in the second and third stage), we actually have to have room in our lives for him to do so. We have to first repent from those sinful habits in our lives that prevent us from experiencing his divine presence. But even good things can also get in the way, in that those good things preoccupy us so much that we miss out on the best things. If we are unwilling to purge even the good things that have an inordinate hold on us, then what we have in our lives is a false idol that we have made out to be a competing god.
Lack of a Daily Prayer Life.
If our entire prayer life consists of going to Mass on Sunday, we are not giving God the “in” to affect us in our daily life. We may very well be inspired by what we heard and experienced at Sunday Mass, but if we never recall those inspirations of God’s wisdom and guidance in our regular daily prayer, how can we expect it to affect our everyday lives and know the intimacy God desires with us?
Being intimate with God means revealing your true self to him. This includes all the wounds in our life that we would rather ignore or bury because they are too painful to deal with. But it’s Jesus himself, the Divine Physician, that can heal us and speak truth to the lies we have believed about ourselves from those traumatic events that all of us have had or will have. If we are unwilling to be real and vulnerable with God, then we make intimacy with him impossible.
Pride blinds us from even knowing that we are being willful, and being willful closes us off from transformative change. Our stubbornness to do what we want and for things to go the way we want them to go precludes us from God having his way with us. Humility, then, is the key that unlocks the doorway to intimacy with God. We have to be malleable clay before him, allowing his divine truth and love to refashion us in a way that we may not desire at first because his ways are not our ways.
Lord, whatever it takes, let me know you and experience the salvation and divine intimacy you desire with me.