One of the most integral teachings of the Christian religion, one that needs to be highlighted in our contemporary American culture, is the relationship between the Divine and the individual. In many contemporary spiritualities (some of which might be characterized as “New Age”), practitioners often hold the opinion that we manipulate a Universal energy, thus either believing or implying that the individual is capable of harnessing the Divine through intentional effort. One such example of this kind of thinking that the Catholic Church has responded to is Reiki (see http://www.usccb.org/about/doctrine/publications/upload/evaluation-guidelines-finaltext-2009-03.pdf)
While I do not want to call into question either the motives or the ethics of people who practice Reiki and other such practices (as Pope Francis reminds us, “Who am I to judge?”), I think this is a valuable moment to have a dialogue about Christian belief. Interestingly enough, referring to the activity of God as “energy” is not actually foreign to Christian theology. In Eastern Orthodoxy, instead of using the term “grace” to signify the presence of the Divine which is communicated and received by individual believers, they use the term “Divine energy.”
However, the common patrimony of both Catholic and Orthodox teaching is very clear on the subject. Whether we call the presence of the Divine in the individual (or in creation for that matter) “grace” or “energy,” our role is the same. We are called to receive and surrender to God’s initiative, and our growth in holiness is measured by the extent to which we let go of our human and limited forms of activity and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, St. John of the Cross indicates that such a form of surrender is the very nature of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. He explains that faith indicates the surrender of the intellect to God. Furthermore, hope indicates the surrender of the memory to God, and love indicates the surrender of the will. As we cultivate these three virtues, our lives are opened up to a whole new mode of existence as we are transformed by the Divine. St. Paul expresses this reality most succinctly when he writes, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
As always, the Church does not seek to condemn those who follow other spiritual paths, but rather to dialogue on the nature of human/ divine cooperation as well as to invite all people to intimacy with Jesus Christ. Such intimacy cannot dwell in a heart that is divided, one that secretly holds out on the fullness of God’s presence. For us to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ we must open every part of our lives to him without condition. Today, I invite you to participate in this new horizon made possible through Jesus Christ.