Monday, May 30, 2011

Different Levels of Spirituality

A popular columnist who gives advice to readers of his weekly newspaper column, and also to those who go to his website and the more than 40,000 readers of his book, was interviewed recently in one of the secular daily papers and in the Peace Weekly. He admitted, with a chuckle, that he didn't know if he should be sad or happy because there are so many who have a need for counseling.

He is a pastor of a parish in Seoul and, in addition to his weekly  column and his website, lectures once a month in his own parish. His method of counseling is unique. If a woman tells him that her husband is breaking her heart, he asks her why she continues living with him. If a woman is having difficulty with her mother-in-law, he recommends that she put a picture of the mother-in-law on the wall and vent her feelings. If a mother tells him that her son is giving her trouble, he tells her not to worry about him and go on with her life. Many Catholics are suffering, he says, from a "good child complex." When they suffer in silence, believing it to be the 'good' response to troubling incidents, depression often follows, and sometimes serious disease.

Since he writes in this vain some priests criticize him, he says, for advocating anger and  hate. He answers that the Catholic Peace Weekly continues to serialize his columns and has no problem with his approach. There are many who cut out his column and paste it on the refrigerator door. 

He says it is necessary to develop not only the good emotions but also those that are not considered good. If we do not defend ourselves, we can come under the control of the others' emotions, he believes, so at times, the emotions of hate, anger and jealousy are all necessary for the sick and imperfect.

The interviewer then brings up the passage from Scripture that tells us to turn the other cheek.  What is that all about? he asks. He answers that in the spiritual life there is  the diseased level, the healthy level, and the holy level. If you recommend the holy level of awareness to a person who has a diseased level of awareness, there is a big gap. Also one has to be careful when a person begins to complain about their situation--being sympathetic can easily slide into seeming compliance with the complaint. And it may be necessary at times to use shock therapy, he says, to get a person to come out of  their cage of self-imposed limitations and stand on their own two feet.

Jesus told those who were sick and poor to ask and it will be given, to knock and it will be opened. But he told his disciples to give everything away and to follow him. He was asking them to go to another level. If one is to climb a high mountain he has to strengthen the muscles of his legs first. That is true also for the muscles of the spiritual heart; they have to be strengthened to be able to turn the other cheek.

He has decided that the next book he writes will be called "Leave the Bird Cage." He says that when we get angry and realize the reason for the anger is in ourselves, then that is when we will be able to leave the cage we have made for ourselves. The Church is a place where we treat the sickness of the heart. If we have made a cage  for ourselves, then when we go to church we make it a place of judgment instead of a place where we find healing.  A place where we encounter God. A place where we find peace and rest.

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