Friday, October 18, 2013

Holistic View of Life

Participating in society is the mission we have received as Christians and as Church. It is the way to live an authentic Christian faith life and to carry out our responsibility to society. A dualism that separates the sacred from the world and is concerned only about the afterlife separates our daily life from the religious life. The biggest obstacle that nourishes this kind of thinking is by seeing the spiritual as distinct from the material. Scriptures do not make this division but gives us a holistic view of life.

A column in the Catholic Times, written by a theology professor, reminds us of this reality which is, he says, a stumbling block to many Christians.  Scripture does not separate the spirit from the body. They are one. "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and  blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being" (Gen. 2:7). The soul is not imprisoned in the body as Plato believed. Scripture points out the problems that can arise from this understanding.

St.Paul addresses the conflict between the spirit and the body:  "The tendency of the flesh is toward death but that of the spirit toward life and peace"(Rm. 8:6). They are to work together.  From the beginning, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism  have stressed the dualism of the spirit and the material. Materiality was considered the shadow side of the spirit.

This kind of thinking sees only the goal of the present life as being the glory achieved after death, the professor says. This thinking rationalizes our earthly pain and oppression, believing that our economic  and social  structures are justified.

However, Scripture, referencing the foundational experience of slavery in Egypt, speaks about liberation, and not only from sin but from all that enslaves us. Scripture does not see only a spiritual liberation but an integration of  spirituality and materiality.  The reduction of everything worthwhile in the world to Spirit is a concept that is far from the teaching of Scripture, says the professor. Consequently, our individual piety and our community worship cannot  be separated from the structures we find in society.

Scripture invites us to fight for life and freedom by integrating our body and spirit for well being, peace, justice, and the integrity of creation. The dualistic mind will separate the spirit and the body and this will lead, the professor warns, to many difficulties in living the spiritual life. There is a need, he says, for a greater loving gaze at all of creation, seeing it as an expression of God's love for all.

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