In the beginning of our spiritual lives, particularly when we are young, ideals serve us well in forming us to be disciples. We tend to view behavior as conforming to set patterns, and these patterns are mostly formed by good role models and the influence of art. In this way, we learn to visualize our flourishing in both our work and personal lives, and holding these ideals before our attention helps us keep focused on the task at hand.
As good as such ideals can be, there is a point where we must learn to move beyond them to reach our full flourishing in Christ. In particular, we tend to measure our prayer time against what we think we should or should not be experiencing. This, in turn, leads us to make judgments about our holiness based on criteria that remains subconscious. Thus, we can spend enormous amounts of time and energy desperately seeking to manipulate our interior life to fit our stereotypes of holiness.
If we allow our hearts to be formed by scripture, the reality is that Jesus points to a deeper mystery that is greater than our ideals and our ability to analyze and measure. In places such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus teaches in a way that challenges us to grow. In many ways, his teaching can seem incredibly indirect as he seems not to answer our burning questions. In a sense, the teacher is drawing us into the mystery of his love and presence, and thus teaching us to move beyond our abilities to understand and grasp.
Of course, there will always be a threshold morality that constitutes the foundation for society. However, our true flourishing in Christ involves much more than simple external conformity. Holiness involves moving and acting in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, that synergistic convergence in which our will is conformed to the Divine will. Our goal is nothing short of the creative potential of the Holy Spirit in which God’s love is made incarnate in his members.
Thus, we must embrace Divine love as the mode of our human existence, and being on fire with Divine love means that we must move beyond our limited patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring. To make space for this new mode of existence, we must constantly abnegate our personal preferences and points of view and open our hearts to the mystery underlying all things. We must make time for the Holy Spirit to breath and work within us, and that is why prayer and meditation are so vitality important.