Obstacles on the spiritual journey

By | July 5, 2011

Jesus uses the analogy of planting and harvesting to describe the miracle of grace. God’s love is like a seed; when it finds fit soil an abundant harvest is at hand. But just as in our vegetable gardens we have to contend with rocks and rabbits, drought and groundhogs, so too in our spiritual fields there are obstacles that thwart our growth and development. Here are three that deserve our attention.

Impatience! Most of us find waiting difficult. All too easily our impatience overflows into anger, the poison of the soul. Wise farmers know the nature of their vocation. They do not waste energy on demanding more that the seed and the soil can deliver. Unfortunately, in the spiritual domain, such wisdom is less practiced. This is evidenced in our spiritual anxiousness and restlessness.

The gift needed here is hope. St. Paul, the apostle of hope, was keenly aware that the suffering of this life cannot be compared to what God has in store for those who love him. Paul sees all creation filled with “eager expectation” and he is confident that, in God’s good time and through our cooperation, freedom will be ours and slavery will be banished. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit, the source of our patience and hope.

Ill-disposition! There is an old proverb that says that whatever is received is received according to the mode of the receiver. If we have indigestion, even the greatest steak in the world will fail to pleasure our taste. If we sulk, even the finest piece of music or work of art will fail to delight. If we are in sin, the spiritual practices of prayer and the reception of the sacraments will not result in desired growth.

Though soil as such does not have “disposition,” it does have certain levels of quality that make it more or less “disposed” in assisting seeds on their journey to maturity. Each of us must assume some responsibility for providing a healthy reception to the seeds of grace.

Laziness! On our spiritual journey, the element of cooperation with God’s providence is a given. God does not force grace upon anyone; it must be freely accepted. Tending a garden demands discipline and hard work: watering, weeding, cultivating. Laziness means that we have failed our call to stewardship.

God’s good earth is one big garden given to us for tending. May God’s seeds of grace produce a rich harvest.

Questions for reflection

1. Which of the three obstacles of growth is the most difficult for you?

2. How would you describe the “disposition” of your soul?

3. How does your garden grow?

 

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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