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 Blooming Stars

Theology of Spirituality

            The other day I was going down the ashram road when two devout women were coming up the road after attending Qurbana (Holy Mass) in the nearby church. I commented saying that they were holier now than before since they are coming after Qurbana. Their response was: “Oh, we are sinners”. I asked them if they did anything against their conscience. They said: “No”. In that case I told them they are holy. I reminded them that there was a time when early Christians addressed each other reverentially as saints. I asked them if God created sinners or humans in the image of God. I further asked them if Christ revealed God as our father thus making us all children of God. They had no answer. That we are worthless and sinners are the deeply entrenched foundation of our medieval, negative theology of spirituality that is all-pervasive, and that has a strangle-hold on the image of Christians as followers of Christ. It is not a positive view of humans who in their freedom can do good as well as evil.

            Hinduism is not any different in that humans by their very birth come into this world by the accumulated burden of inter-birth sins (janmanthara papam) and therefore in need of liberation from the bondage of sin. It looks like God took pleasure in creating humans in the bondage of sin, and sent them into this world merely for the sake of salvation or liberation. That we define humans in their essence by their sin does no credit to God. It gives the impression of a God who indulges in sadism. The convoluted theology of original sin to make God look great and humans worthless and sinners forebodes ill. That is where we need to extricate theology from the dark medievalism, and redefine it positively as every human being is created in grace as children of God. Everyone has the needed grace to do the right thing in freedom and grace. This is what needs to be instilled in every human being. If God has predestined everybody to a determined afterlife, why bother at all? All the gymnastics about balancing freedom, grace, and predestination is sheer theological jargon. It is of no more interest than the old theological riddle related to the number of angels dancing on the point of a needle! Psychologically the negative self-image of Christians as sinners has done untold harm to humanity. Humans sin when they abuse their freedom.

            The recent canonizations of two popes are also relevant in the context of spirituality and sanctity. I strongly think that canonizations are exercises in sheer futility. From reports I understand that about one million Christians at St. Peters Square in Rome where two popes declared two popes saints had a unique experience. I can only think of these canonizations as glorious distractions from concentrating on real and substantive reforms in the Catholic Church where all are called to be saints by incessantly doing God’s will. Yet by canonizing Pope John 23rd, a vision of the Church of the future that started the Second Vatican Council was canonized. By canonizing Pope John Paul II, the official church canonized a conservative, reactionary, and authoritarian past that stopped in many ways the reforms of the Second Vatican Council dead in its tracks.

            All are called to holiness, sanctity, and sainthood. It is not the preserve of a chosen few who then can mediate for others. No miracles need to be validated by science or testimonies for one to be declared a saint. Faith and science do not mix. Faith relates to the sphere of realities beyond this world. There is a sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) related to holiness. Currently a growing consensus is emerging that the church needs to change and reform to make the standard of Christ real. It looks like in many things the governing authority (the magisterium) of the church, perhaps unwittingly, led by power and control, plays the same role that the Great Sanhedrin (The Jewish Council) played in the trial of Christ. All the medieval structures around Church governance need to be dismantled with a view to thorough reformation guided by democracy, transparency, compassion, and humble authority of service.

            For that, of course, primacy and infallibility need to vanish; central control concentrated in Vatican needs to give way to central guidance and consultation. The class system of laity and clergy also needs to go. A selected body of clergy and laity can coordinate the service of governance in the Church. Selected spiritual leaders can provide guidance. No doctrine can replace conscience and love for the believers. Theology of spirituality, then, while keeping the good and humane practices of the past (tradition) will foster brotherly and sisterly love among all humans with a view to creatively projecting to the outside world the Kingdom of God lived within. It is love lived and shared with the entire creation in evolving balance and harmony. Spirituality (spirit-led life) is in tune with the entire creation, and blooms into sanctity spreading its odor everywhere. This true sanctity does not require any canonization or extra-ordinary feat or miracles for validation.


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