- Rev. Fr. Paul D'Souza
Spiritual maturity is the better part of human maturity which is thought of as a many-sided phenomenon that may be viewed from various angles : chronological, psycho-logical, social or spiritual. In fact, the theme called spiritual maturity is an inter-disciplinary subject to which one man’s limited competence can scarcely hope to do justice. The present essay will be mainly concerned with spiritual maturity in biblical and Christian perspectives.
Personal interrelationships are also another world of complexities, the in-depth study of which involves many specializations and areas of knowledge far beyond the reach of a single human mind. Persons are the subject of these relationships. Persons have spirituality as part of their natural constitutions, whether these persons are Divine, angelic, human or diabolic.
To discuss how spiritual maturity is related to personal interrelationships is like investigating how much of the water of the river Jordan has been evaporated by the heat of the sun, and poured by rain-clouds into the river Cauvery, since the days of John the Baptist. Even solid maturity is not a solid, just as interrelationships, however smooth and fluid they may be, are not accessible to the senses, or to any measuring instruments..
They are realities so elusive as to escape the range of the words through which we attempt describing and circumscribing them. Technology has not yet invented methods and instruments to measure spiritual maturity on the one hand, and relations are really personal, on the other. Hair-splitters would even question whether all human relationships can be labelled interpersonal
However, the author of the following pages has embarked on the venture of putting together the following thoughts – known already to many and reflected on by few. They deal for the most part with Christian spiritual maturity and interpersonal relationships, after a few preliminary considerations.
How is spiritual maturity is linked to psychological maturity ? This latter may be emotional or intellectual. Human spirituality on the other hand may be natural or supernatural. Interpersonal relations, too, may be variously categorized : familial, filial, professional, social, communitarian; political alliances; business partnerships. In whatever direction we turn our attention, we are caught in the web of human interrelationships – that are more or less personal.
The tendency to well-being and fulfilment has been impressed by Nature into all its products. And the Almighty has commissioned Nature to form and formulate its own programmes and processes ; and Nature has accepted to work like an artist on the inner side of the multitude and variety of its products : minerals and flowers, trees and animals.
Personal relations increase along one’s journey through time and space. Psychological maturity may run parallel to spiritual maturity in the sense that psychological maturity is specifically human since humans have spirituality as part and parcel of the human constitution. Viewed from another angle, psychological maturity can be considered part and parcel of spiritual development.
Our intelligence with its abilities to discover, invent, manufacture, fabricate, abstract, calculate, legislate, communicate, are all evidence of the constitutional spirituality of men and women. Conscience is no more than a function of this elusive thing called intelligence. Moral maturity is an integral part of human maturity. Deriving from intelligence and conscience in the realm of the natural human constitution, follows the freedom of the will. This is the capacity to choose from different alternatives what a person judges best suited and most conducive to well-being and happiness.
Human happiness cannot subsist without some relationship to the Divine as well as to fellow humans. Humans were made to the image of God, Who is Supreme Spirit. That is why people everywhere make religion more or less an essential component of their personal lives and their culture. The spirituality stemming from religion aspires to a deeper relation-ship to the Absolute by perfecting, chiselling and polishing and refining this image of God in the spirit of man. This process of growth is what we mean here by spiritual maturity.
Experience and Education
Maturity is scarcely ever a fait accompli. It is an ongoing process. People do not blossom like flowers in the garden, or ripen like fruits on a tree. They need a good deal of experience and education for their maturation. Human nature is more in need of nurture than the rest of nature. And the family and its modern substitutes in the gotm of educational institutions, are supposed to look after this need.
It is in the family and the educational institutions that we encounter also the arena of the first interpersonal relationships. Many specialists have focussed on the life-long effects on the children, of the treatment they received from their parents.
In religious circles, much of this education takes on the shape of what is called formation and the stages of formation. While temperament may be partly the product of nature, character is the product of education and freedom.
Education and spiritual maturation are seen to be a complex of heterogeneous processes. Mature formators like humanly mature parents, are careful to impart through verbal communication the same message that they impart through non-verbal communication. They have to teach those entrusted to them to take the first steps in spiritual maturity. They must begin by judging, discerning, decidng and choosing between various options .
Educational relationships – between parents and children, teachers and students, forma-tors and formees, gurus and shishas -- can be personal interrelationships through which “maturity” is attained, if ever it is. Children must obey their parents, and subordinates must obey superiors. Obedience, respect, honesty, decency, sense of duty, and other such spiritual qualities are ingredients of spiritual maturity, on the one hand, and make for healthy interpersonal relationships on the other. Healthy interpersonal relationships pertain to spiritual maturity, which, in turn, involves personal relations . They involve one another, evolve with ine another, revolve on one another.
Truth, Faith and Maturation
The educator/formator has to shape the understanding of the person, and her/his conscience. Truth must be the hammer, the chisel and the brush used by the formator throughout the process of formation.
The education of the mind through the truth is an essential component of human spirituality and spiritual maturity. In fact, all human intetrelationships presuppose some direct or indirect connection with truth, because one most basic condition for human interrelationships is faith.
The human teacher however cannot decide and choose for the disciple, after the disciple has attained a certain maturity. But what is the criterion used by teachers and formators to judge the maturity of their disciples and students ? Unfortunately, the need for teachers in schools and colleges can compel society to fill vacancies with immature people.
Human faith is a pre-requisite through the whole educational process – and beyond. Children must have faith, first, in their parents; then, in their teachers; then, in their text-books; then, in their radios and newspapers. Teenage relationships too are intertwined with friendship-faith, mutual trust and confidence. Learning for themselves, and earning for themselves, they meet with ever more occasions of making new contacts and expanding the network of their relationships.
When the time comes to settle down in life, and they feel the need of a partner, the need of a new type of faith emerges : marriage – faith. And when they have a home of their own and property of their own, they will need a bank in which they cn place they faith and trust.
Although the word faith is common to all the different ages and stages through which we grow, that realities that are experienced, defy categorization.
Part of these realities are the emotions differentiating one type of faith from another.
The faith of the friend in the friend is quite another thing from the faith of the spouse in the spouse, or the faith of the child in its mother.
Faith in other people, therefore, is the cement of society and the infra-structure of human interrelationships. What relationships can you have with a person you cannot trust ? Even scamsters need to have some faith in fellow-scamsters before even thinking of negotiating with them. Similarly, patients need faith in the people whom they choose to be their respective doctors.
On the other hand, experience teaches that the mature that no human being merits unlimited faith. The amount of mutual deception that is going on in the society around, and the piles of files containing hidden agenda, compel people to think tha human communication is often a compromise between what is on the lips and what is in the mind. Interpersonal relations therefore require a good deal of mature circumspection.
Bush and Blair, these days are said to be undergoing a “crisis of credibility”.
The psalmist, already in Old Testament times had lamented: “ … Truth has gone from the sons of men. Falsehood they speak to one another, with lying lips, with a false heart..” Elsewhere: “Their throat a wide open grave, all honey their speech.” This shows that some people who boast of excellent human relationships, may be expert also in character assassination.
History too shows that even great geniuses who wished no one evil, led many people into error, just because they did not know anything better. Aristotle and Buddha, Marx and Gandhi have been considered outstanding teachers of humanity and are believed to have shown the way. Is that truly so ? Their followers may believe them. But many of their critics were intellectually quite mature. When Aristotle could not agree with Plato, he is said to have remarked : “I am a friend of Plato; But I love truth more.”
Mature educators instead of binding their charges to their apron strings, but allow them to walk on their own feet and develop their good sense and personal judgement, the ability to discern, decide and opt for the truth, and not merely the ability but the actuation, and constantly repeated actuation of that ability. All said and done, objective all-round criteria for evaluating the maturity of individuals are scarcely within our reach. A mature person, however smart and btilliant, is aware of her/his limitations. He/she is slow in imposing his/her own convictions on all around.
Christian spiritual maturity – which is the principal object of our enquiry -- takes into account the new horizons opened up by Biblical revelation. The whole Bible is an attempt on God’s part to enter into interpersonal relationships with our race, our ancestors, our parents, our peers, our sisters and brothers, our cousins and companions and ourselves. Through His Word, God wants to tell us that He loves us; and that He wants us to love Him.
The Lord entered into very personal relationswith Abraham and his family; and later with Abraham’s people who became the people of God. His desire for personal relationships was embodied in the covenant, and expressed through the prophets who compared His love for Israel to the love between Bridegroom and bride – the most intimate and personal of human relationships..
The gospel of God’s grace bestows on human nature invitation and access to a higher than human spirituality. We are called participate in the Divine. This means that er participate in the spiritualityof God Himself. This is a mysterious participation. The Supreme Spirit has no parts. Like water heated by fire, participates in the fire, so human beings can participate in the Supreme Spirit. The different degrees of this participation may be considered diffeent degrees of maturation.
A single human person in the state of grace is more valuable and precious than all the rest of creation without that grace, since this very special participation elevates human beings right above even angelic nature. Christian spirituality is intertwined and closely knit to this grace which has been poured into our hearts bythe Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. All this has been achieved because of the Incarnation. The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, taking the form of a servant in such a way as to empower mortals to transform human relations into divine.
Christian spiritual maturity consists, first and foremost, in very intimate and personal relations with the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. And the greater the maturity, the deeper and stronger the bond of relationship of faith in and love for, the Triune God. In this sense, spiritual maturity becomes practically identified with personal interrelations – bearing in mind that these relations are divine.
Furthermore, through the Incarnation, the Word of God has given a new meaning to each and every human being, thus paving the way for the tranformation of human relationships.
Jesus as Model for Personal Relations
That Jesus is spiritually mature no Christian will call into question. St. Teresa and many others – including Aquinas -- speaks of prayer as an interpersonal activity that powerfully boosts this intimate relationship with God. She tells her daughters that they should learn to share their life-situations and peoblems with Jesus, the Bridegroom of their souls. When joyful and happy, they can contemplate the Transfiguration; when sad and anguished, they may remember Gethesemane; when betrayed by friends, they may recall Judas; when falsely accused, they may meditate on how the chief priests instigated the people to prefer Barabbas to Jesus. In and through every life-situation, Jesus reveals the spiritual maturity of His psychological personality.
The gospels contain hundreds of examples of how Jesus engages in and fosters personal interrelationships : with Mary, with the fisher-folk, with his huge audiences, with his apostles, his disciples, his critics and adversaries, with lawyers, customs officials, Samaritans, Pharisees, children, sinners of various categories, Roman officials, chief priests … He was a man of the people, for the people, with and among the people --- not in the least embarrassed to be seen on the road in the company of people of ill-repute. You could meet Him in the market, on the sea-shore, in the wedding-hall, in the house of a publican who had climbed into a tree to catch a glimpse of Him.
However, in and through and between all His dealing with people, Jesus maintained constant contact with His Heavenly Father.
As for other people, Jesus, like us, may have merely vrushed shoulders with most of those in the crowds, without entering into personal relations with them --- unless they were eager to meet Him,or at least touch the hem of His garment. One of those eager to meet Him was the syro-phenician woman.
The Syro-Phoenician Woman
The woman who does not belong to the chosen race, comes to Jesus begging for the cure of her daughter. Jesus vocalizing the mental attitude of the Jews, tells her that it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. She retorts that in effect she agrees with the principle, while adding that the dogs can at least enjoy the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
This woman’s sense of her own dignity must have felt hurt by the remark of Jesus, and made her recoil from Him.
But she mustered the forces of her freedom to overcome her feelings – including the sene of her own dignity. The greatest of these forces was her faith in Jesus, as Jesus Himself pointed out while congratulating her : “ O woman, great is your faith ! Let it be done to you as you desire.”
Another aspect of the syrophenician woman’s faith is that it transcended communal barriers. Communalism as we know raises humanly insurmountable obstacles to accepting that people of another communal group are superior to one’s own. And Jesus pricks the woman precisely on this Achilles’ heel of human nature. Communalism is a deep wound and weakness in human nature that can easily affect even smart and intelligent people and prevent them seeing r realities that are quite obvious in themselves. Communalism has a way of penetrating through the conscious, and insidiously establishing itself in the subconscious. Thenceforward, unjust attitufes and discrimination against others appears most natural and appropriate.
Such was the attitude of the Jews to the syro-phenicians. And Jesus tentatively adopted that attitude. It is as though He were telling her that syro phenicians are little better than dogs compared to the Jews. But Jesus manifested clearly, by working the miracle for her, that He was a catholic. His mission was universal, and universal would be the personal interrelationships his followers would have to cultivate.
The Samaritan Woman
Sitting at the well of Jacob, Jesus waits, while his disciples have gone to fetch some edibles for Him. There comes the woman. She approaches the well, foresseing a confrontation. A man is there at the well; she recognizes him as a Jew, a man of a different social category, which looks down upon the ‘samaritan’ category.
Her prejudiced thought processes are suddenly interrupted by the Jew at the well. “Please give me a drink.” She feels important. This is not a Jew who disdains her. On the contrary. his whole attitude makes her feel at home. She feels free to articulate her thoughts. “How is it that you being a Jew, ask a drink of me who am a Samaritan ?”
The tactful access of Jesus has already overthrown the gender bias, and the communal bias. He gives the woman enough confidence to ask Him an explanation for His unconventional behaviour.
Jesus replied :“If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman, who seems to have had quite a high degree of what they call i.q., would not be so easily fooled: “You have nothing to draw with; and the well is deep; where do you get that living water ?” Then she becomes a little cheeky “ … are you greater than our father Jacob …” Jesus replies, explaining that by “water” He means something somewhat different from the water in the well: “ Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, will never thirst …”. When the woman requested for that water, Jesus told her to call her husband and come. “I have no husband,” said she.
“That’s true. You have had five. And the present one is not your husband.” She not only admitted but later went back to the city telling everyone: “ Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did.”
How well she knew she was guilty. How gently she had been drawn to confess her guilt. How tactfully Jesus had blown away her masks and defence mechanisms. That is what those who share in the spiritual maturity of Jesus can do. Those who are immature are inclined to hate the sinner, while cherishing a secret love for the sin. The spiritually mature, on the contrary, desire to save the sinner, while condemning the sin.
Jesus in Dialogue
The above instances already show how expertly Jesus engages in dialogue. Respect for other people – even for strangers and outsiders – is recognized today as a fundamental pre-requisite for interpersonal relations. There are passages in Scripture that seem to attribute to God this respect for other persons, although this is not an obligation fo God.
After Adam had done the forbidden thing, God Who knew well all about the transaction between satan and our first parents, nevertheless wanted to hear Adam’s version.
Jesus too is willing with an open mind to listen to the opinions of others. No doubt there are a few truths that He expects to be taken for granted on His authority. But most of the time He wants to understand; and He wantsHis audience to understand.Jesus wants people to live with understandingand to do and decide intelligently.
Asked by the lawyer, “Which is the freatest commandment,” Jesus wanted to know the thinking of the lawyer himself who should have been familiar with the Law. Questioned about whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus wanted to see a coin, and asked whose image was there on the coin. Knowing his critics were extreme in their inter-pretation of the Sabbath rest, Jesus invited them to express their reasons for their view: “ Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day.”
On another occasion, some persons at Capernaum came and asked Peter whether his guru would be paying the temple tax, Peter went into the house where Jesus was. And Jesus “…anticipated him saying ‘what do you think Simon: from whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taces, from their sons or from strangers ?” “From strangersm” replied Peter. “Then the children are free. Nevertheless so as not to offend them, …give it to them for Me and you.”
Spiritually mature persons do not offend others needlessly, nor do they insist on jis own rights; nor do they insist always that they are right. Immature people are eager to prove that they are always right, and by hook or crook they will justify even their errors and mistakes. The Pharisees, self-righteous people, were keen to appear righteous, even by trying to show Jesus was wrong. Jesus was ready to dialogue even with them. On one occasion when Jesus came to the temple, the chief priests and elders demanded some clarifications ; “By what authority do you do these things ?” Jesus replied that He would answer if they first answered His question: “ The baptism of John – from where was it: from heaven or from men?” They reasoned among themselves: “If we say ‘from heaven’ He will ask:’why did you not believe him ? If we say ‘from men’, we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus and said ‘we do not know’. Jesus replied:’neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’.”
Jesus knows how to dialogue with those who are truthful and sincere, and also with those who are crooked and insincere. We who are surrounded by both types of people must learn. Jesus teaches us Christian maturity: “Be simple as doves, and prudent as serpents,” in your relationships with people. You, too, may have to deal with some Judas who is capable of betraying you with a kiss – the sign of the most intimate love-relationship.
This spirit of dialogue is carried over into the preachinf Jesus.
Jesus, even when speaking, is inwardly listening to the needs and problems of His audience. He is all the time teaching about the kingdom of God, using words, expressions, metaphors, concepts, that are calculated to engage the attention of the particular groups that are listening to Him – farmers, fishermen, merchants, lawyers, scribes.
Through baptism we become partakers in the Divine nature. The new life tends to grow and mature and flourish. Hence there are stages and degrees in Christian maturity. This development comes about through exercising our minds and memories and wills in faith; through deepening our faith through meditation and prayer; and applying our faith to every aspect of our lives.
As in human interrelationships, so too in the Christian dispensation, faith has to play a decisive role. But it has been noted above, that human truthfulness is like shifting sand. “… I said in my alarm: ‘No man can be trusted.”
Gabriel Marcel has pointed out that without faith in God – which pertains to spiritual maturity – fidelity to human beings cannot be guaranteed.
Jesus must be thanked for providing the foundations and the means for interpersonal friendship and fidelity, trust and reliability. “…You shall know the Truth,and the Truth will make you free.” This freedom is an essential element of spiritual maturity, on one hand, and healthy interpersonal relations, on the other. This freedom demands from the believer use, exercise and exploitation of free-will.
The person who believes and is baptized will be saved. Belieiving means more than just listening ; believing connotes more than just knowing.
Christian faith leads to divine Truth. This Truth shows the way to Life and final fulfilment and happiness. Ehere there is no truth, there is no goal; there is therefore no going, and no growing; and therefore, no maturing . Those who follow Jesus, have Truth as their teacher.
Believing means listening and absorbing the message in such a way as to shape one’s thinking, attitudes, and behaviour in accordance with the message. “ He who listens to these words of mine and acts on them, is like a person who built his house on rock.” The rains fell, and the rivers rose, and the gales blew and beat against that house, and it stood. and it withstood, because it had been founded and built on rock. That is spiritual maturity. It is almost synonymous woth growth in faith.
“I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So deep is this conviction in the mature believer,that she is ready henceforward to leave herself in the hands of Jesus, and have no preoccupations about who is for or who is against her. She makes her own the prayer of St. Francis: “O Master grant that I may never seek so much to be understood, as to understand .. to be consoled as to console…”
… and Faithfulness
An important component of healthy human relationships is fidelity: to friends, to duty, to marriage vows, to religious profession, to professional confidentiality. Fidelity contributes credibility and reliability to the stability of human relationships.
This question was touched upon by the Pharisees who applied it specifically to marriage : “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife …?” Jesus strongly discouraged that. “ Then why did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce…?” Jesus reply was “… because of the hardness of your hearts.” Hardness of heart tends to kill genione human relationships. However, a good many hard-hearted people appear very social and sociable, and enjoy innumerable social contacts. Such appearances are deceptive. It is said that Hitler was not only popular in some circles, but even appeared quite gracious to people as long as they took care not to srep on his toes.
The Will to Love
As enjoined in the parable of the talents, the natural human abilities especially those pertaining to constitutive spirituality, such as intelligence, conscience, freedom, are to be exercised and developed in accordance with gospel demands. Through baptism, supernatural talents that elevate out human understanding and strengthen our freedom, are bestowed on us. Superhuman faith, hope and love are gifted to us along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All these will be taken into account by the process of spiritual matura-tion.
First of all, the gospel message is to be known and assiduously studied till it is absorbed more and more into one’s system. The rate of this process of absorption serves as a thermometer for measuring the degree of spiritual maturation. Spiritual maturity in the gospel sense is almost equivalent to growth in love and freedom.
As human faith shapes outlook, attitude and culture, so does Christian faith mould attitudes and behaviour. Faith without works is dead. That would apply to faith to faith in men, and also to faith in God. One who believes what is printed in the current time-table about arrival and departure of trains, will come to catch the train he has in mind, at the scheduled time. The action of coming in time, is the indication and the work if faith in the time-table.
What is the work corresponding to and inspired by Christian faith ? Christian love. One who does not love, does not really believe in God or in Jesus Whom God has sent. In Christ, all that counts is “… faith working through love.”
This Christian love, which is “ …poured into our hearts by the Spirit of God ”, is a mighty power for personal relationships that are healthy, holy, all-embracing, self- transcending, integrating, and enduring.
This love moulds habits of thought: “ Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Judgements and prejudices cause divisions and hatred, in the name of truth and objectivity. In the process, even psychology can become all mixed up with politics; and that, even in decent religious communities, and perhaps specially in religious communities where we find persons who want to be considered scholars in every sphere under the sun. Christian love can help them to mature.
The Word of God expects us to use wisely our capacity for judging situations by reading the signs of the times. “By their fruits, you will know them.” What are those fruits ? The poisoning of interpersonal relationships, by causing and spreading distrust, division, dissension, discord, factions. False prophets are the special targets in this passage. Around us, too, there may be false prophets, craving for cheap popularity at the cost of someone else. Such cravings are not indications of maturity. They are symptoms of some inner malaise that leads people to prefer prestige to truth. To them the Good News would be : “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. Thus did their fathers to the false prophets.”
…in Words and Attitudes
Christian love aims at moulding a person’s thinking about others and also a person’s speech. The Gospels, St. Paul, St. James, have a great deal to say about the use of the tongue which is of such paramount importance in interpersonal relations. For instance :
“ Therefore, putting away lying speak the truth to one another since we are members of one another.” “Let no corrupt word ever proceed from your mouth… but what imparts grace to your hearers.”
Christian love shapes attitudes that promote human brotherhood, justice, peace and equality. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, but you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Love is an equalizer by its very nature. Women complain of male domination. And feminists struggle for some ‘equality’ that will liberate them. They blame St. Paul for not being consistent with what he writes here to the Galatians. The apostle, however, seems to have understood that human equality did not consist in physical functions, nor in mathematical proportions, but in mutual complementarity.
Equality and Mutual Complementarity
Paul must have realized that the will to power and the desire to dominate others was not at all a gender problem. It was a weakness of human nature rather than of gender. Paul himself had been persecuted by men. And some of these men had used women as their instruments for persecuting Paul. They had”…stirred up devout and prominent women…” against him and Barnabas. The abuse of power, therefore, is not a gender problem or property, but a trait of fallen human nature. The solution to this problem is maturity in faith and love. Love. is the force that equalizes from the inside, while the instinct to dominate imposes itself from the outside.
“Wives submit to yout husbands,…” ”Husbands love your wives…” “Children, obey your parents…” “And you parents, do not provoke your children …” “Serbants be obedient to your masters…” “ And you masters, do the same things for them, …knowing that your Master is in heaven…” Aristotle as well as Paul have been criticised by social theorists for not condemning slavery outright. But both Aristotle and Paul must have realized that love and humaneness can establish better human relation-ships between men and women, slaves and masters, children and parents, than so-called externally imposed “equality” with inward hatred, resentment and rivalry.
Unity and Universality
On the road to Damascus, Paul had heard Jesus saying to him : Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me ?” Absorption in the preoccupation of the moment, had not allowed Paul to capture fully the detailed import of the question. He had to make a retreat; and after some time in reflection, he was able to sketch the new vision of human interrelationships.
“ …as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are yet one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one Body – whether Jews of Greeks, whther slaves of free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
Paul came to realize on the road to Damascus that Christ identified Himself with Christians, and that by persecuting the Christians, Paul was persecuting Christ. Paul understood now, what the other apostles had learnt from Christ Himself : Whatsoever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to Me.”
The exercise and exploitation of free-will that this programme calls for is truly heroic. When, at the Round Table Conference in London, in the 1930s, Lord Irving asked Gandhi what solution he would suggest for the crisis that was emerging in Indo-British relations, Gandhi is said to have replied : “The sermon on the mount contains the solution for all the problems of humanity”. Unfortunately, even in the Roman Catholic Church, the Christians are many, but the real Catholics are few. In other words, spiritual maturity is a rare phenomenon. It does turn out to be phenomenal in persons like Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The biblical injunction of universal love exploits personal free-will by demanding forgiveness of injuries received. Those who cannot forgive are enlaved by their resentments, and are, therefore, not mature. The gospel demands more. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who slander you.”
This universality requires the personal freedom of each believer to grow and mature in such a way as to transcend the boundaries of clique, clan, colour, country, culture and creed – with benevolence towards all and malice towards none.
How and when is spiritual maturity attained ? From all the foregoing, the answer is clear : perfect spiritual maturity is reached when perfect interpersonal relationships are established and maintained with God and with fellow human beings. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This maturity is transphenomenal, which means that there are no scientific or even merely psychological criteria by which it may be evaluated. The phenomena touched by the human sciences, such as psychology or sociology, could be considered no more than the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ Depth psychology is too shallow to be regarded universally as a science by the scientific community.
The spiritual maturity which has engaged us here, has its roots in the Holy Spirit, Who bestows on believers, not only the theologal virtues but also His gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the dear of the Lord. These gifts become operative in the spiritually mature person, who radiates their effects all around herself : “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All these are qualities eminently suited for personal and interpersonal relationships.
John 15, 18
1 Peter 3
Rev. Fr. Paul D'Souza
Institute of Philosophy
R.S. Naidu Nagar, Mysore- 7, Karnataka State, India
Phone 0821-2490638/ 2493949/ 3099005