“SPIRITUAL wordliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: ‘How can you believe, who receives the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44). It is a subtle way of seeking one’s own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Phil 2:21). It takes many forms, depending on the kind of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simple, moral” (Pope Francis, “The Joy Of The Gospel”, 2014).
The title of this article is a sub-title of one of the topics that Pope Francis discussed in his book mentioned earlier. Honestly, it is the first time in my whole life to encounter the term “Spiritual Wordliness”. Based on his last sentence above, there are certain forms of “Spiritual Wordliness which is still “simple moral”. Perhaps” this refers to what “enlightened self-interest.”
An example of an “enlightened self-interest” is that I obey God’s commandments not only because it is my expression of loving God and neighbor but at the same time I also desire my “salvation”. This is a “simple moral” thing to do, if my ultimate motivation is for the greater glory of God than for myself.
How to sort out a moral and immoral “Spiritual Wordliness” is indeed a difficult task. This requires effective discernment on our part. Let’s pray to the Holy Spirit to help us seek the truth on this matter.
Back to Pope Francis. He further wrote: “This insidious wordliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed yet all have the same pretense of “taking over the space of the Church.” In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern with the Gospel having a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time (one of which is the healing of our sick society, I may add). IN this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or couching which is the property of a select few” (underlining mine). In others spiritual wordliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gains, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or obsession with a program of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen into social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management statistics, plans and evaluation whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; and closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervor is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.”
Wow! “Bato bato sa langit tamaan may bukol!”. Is our Catholic Church in the Philippines truly the “Church of the Poor”? Does our Catholic Church really practice “Preferential Option for Poor”? When we talk of Church here, we refer to all church members meaning religious, clergies and laities.
Clearly, the answers to these two questions are resounding “No!” and No!” No wonder the “SOCIAL CANCER” Rizal exposed in his controversial “Noli Me Tangere” had developed into a “4th degree social cancer” now and continues to worsen every passing day.
The sorrowful reality is that the worsening sickness of our society happens in a predominant Christian nation. Obviously, Christian Filipinos badly need Re-evangelization. Hence, our Church hierarchy therefore better wake up from their slumber and leave their comfort zone. This should also apply to the leaders of our laities, who are guilty of “spiritual wordliness.”
We are wondering and perhaps even our readers also feel the same, why for many years our Christian catechists seem to fail miserably in educating us about “spiritual wordliness” with the usual religious subjects and they lack “fire” in deepening and widening their knowledge of the richness and joy of our Christian faith. How sad.
Hopefully, this article and our recently launched book titled “Heal Our Sick Society” will serve as a wake-up call to my fellow Christians and our Christian churches. Passion and boldness in our Mission are utterly wanting!
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