Statue of John of the Cross in Avila

Statue of John of the Cross in Avila

Shift to life in the Spirit.

When we dedicate ourselves to pursue union with God, we must shift the focus of our lives from a life of sense—a self-centered, self-directed life to a focus on the life of the Spirit—a God directed life. This journey to God, with its purification of sense and its purification and redirection of the intellect, memory, and will (in faith, hope, and love, respectively) is a preparation for union, and is at the same time a discovery of our true and authentic selves. Again, God is the primary actor; however, we achieve this through a double process of interiorization which implies a move away from pursuing objects as ends in themselves, and a process of union in which we become our real selves and not a self made up of the accumulation of false values. Persons are inauthentic who merely accumulate goods—material or spiritual—believing that the more they have the better they are. Rather, people discover their authentic selves when they completely empty themselves so that they can be filled with God, and thus realize their greatest potential. “Now all the goodness of creatures in the world compared with the infinite goodness of God can be called evil, since nothing is good, save God only (Luke 18:19). A man then who sets his heart on the good things of the world becomes extremely evil in the sight of God” (A.1. 4.4). We must abandon the life of sense and give ourselves to life in the Spirit.

So, the move from a life of sense—a self-directed life, to a life of spirit—a God directed life is not something that will happen spontaneously or because we want it, rather it requires of us the deliberate redirecting to God of all dimensions of our personality—external, social conventions, instinctual tendencies, and all appetites that affect the root of who we are. We must leave aside all that is not God. Please keep in mind that John of the Cross was not opposed to things in themselves, for they all come from our loving God. What he did oppose was possessiveness of heart, whereby a person makes things ends in themselves. We will only find our authentic self when we dedicate ourselves to life in the spirit and pursue this goal with courageous single-mindedness. “To love is to labor to divest and deprive oneself for God of all that is not God. When this is done the soul will be illumined by and transformed in God” (A.2. 5.7).

This shift to life in the spirit not only leads to deeper union with God, but we will uncover or rediscover our true selves at every level of life: sense, spirit, and religious. While the life of sense leads to slavery (C. 18.1), the life of spirit brings a sense of liberty and a heart that is free and open to the Lord (N.2. 14.3). If we focus on a life of sense we become prisoners to a sense-directed life. But interestingly enough, if we give yourselves to a life of the spirit we will actually gain a new sensitivity of sense, in which we can exercise the senses themselves with a new force under the guidance of the Spirit (A.2. 26.14; 15.4). Furthermore, the shift to a life of spirit enables us to discover our authentic self in depth, in that zone which is naturally divine. This discovery of God at the center of our being results from the work of purification. “As soon as natural things are driven out of the enamored soul, the divine are naturally and supernaturally infused” (A.2. 15.4). This shift to life in the Spirit will bring you peace and satisfaction in your spiritual journey (C. 17.8).

  1. Are you sense-directed still or spirit-God-directed?
  2. Is there something that is still an end in itself for you other than God?
  3. Do you think you have discovered your authentic self?

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