Growing and evolving is part of everyday life. Generally, it’s easy for us to assent to this reality, especially when we examine our most basic physical changes and needs.
Beyond our physical reality, we also see growth in emotional and social skills. We understand the need to adjust our emotional temperaments and intelligence to socially interact with others. More to the point, society expects us to conform to norms and behaviors that maximize social cohesion and effectiveness, and we respond accordingly.
Similarly, when we consider growing intellectually, we do what we can to become more knowledgeable and informed. We value education and seek the science and wisdom of experts to guide and support our personal and collective efforts. Perhaps more than before, we have grown in respect and appreciation for science and its advantages and privileges.
Given this propensity for growth in our lives, growing spiritually should come naturally. Yet, we can recognize that this isn’t always the case. We can resist the life of the Spirit and find excuses to put off spiritual growth. And in some cases, we don’t always have the support of others when we do strive to change our sinful ways. Sometimes the opposite is true. We find others questioning our spiritual intentions and religious conversion.
We know, too, that the path of conversion is ongoing. In fact, much of what is needed to grow spiritually requires the ability to look beyond ourselves and seek the grace of God. It takes real humility to admit that we need the truth of the Spirit to guide our steps and conform to God’s ways: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 5: 8-9).
Far from being a disparaging message, these words of the prophet Isaiah remind us that our growth is never far from the Spirit of God. God’s grace ultimately will work in and through us to bring about the spiritual growth and abundance of life. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and the bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55: 10-11). We know that it is through Christ’s redeeming actions that this promise of spiritual growth and life is near to us.
These Lenten days, when we seek to come closer to Christ, we trust that the works of our hands in prayer, fasting and almsgiving will not be empty, but will yield good fruits for our spiritual growth. And we pray that, in Christ, our spiritual maturity may lead us to ongoing renewal and the new creation, where the old things have passed away and the newness of life is before us (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
As we continue to grow physically, emotionally and intellectually, then, let us draw nearer to Christ’s loving grace who gives us what we need to mature in our spiritual ways.
F. Javier Orozco
First published March 24, 2022 in the St. Louis Review