Monday, May 10, 2010

Spiritual Masquerade

Spiritual pride often masquerades as spiritual confidence. In fact, in my experience, spiritual pride never looks like spiritual pride--or at least what you think spiritual pride looks like. The context, of course, is detecting spiritual pride in oneself. It is very easy to detect spiritual pride in others (or so we think). In fact, some people seem to have the “spiritual gift” of discerning almost all the spiritual, emotional and psychological faults of others (again, or so we think). But very few Christians have attained to the height of spiritual discernment to see their own weaknesses, their own spiritual pride.
In the Gospels, Jesus sets before us examples of people with healthy spiritual attitudes. In most cases, these spiritually healthy ones are people whom we would normally say are weak or even defective in some way. The sick ones, Jesus teaches by his words and actions, are the first in the Kingdom of Heaven. We don’t like to view ourselves as the sick ones. We’d rather see ourselves (by God Grace, we say) as the ones who help the sick. And even when we know we are spiritually weak, we like to tell ourselves that we know what we could/should/might do about it--as if spiritual healing were merely a matter of doing what we already know we ought to do. It is an almost perfect mental game. We have the pride of thinking we know, but because we never really give ourselves completely to doing what we know is right, we never find out that what we so confidently know (and will fight to defend) is really only partial and mixed with lots of imagination.
St. Paul rebukes both the Jewish Christians in Rome and the Gentile Christians in Corinth for their spiritual pride, masquerading as confidence. To the Romans he asks, “You who...make your boast in God, and know his will...and are confident that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness…. Do you [not even] teach yourself? … Do you steal? … Do you commit adultery?” Do you, he asks, cause others to curse God because of the way you treat them (since you are already identified as God’s people)? To the Corinthians he chides: “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us.” The Corinthian Christians were so confident in their being right that they were willing to sue one another in court, thus proving that they had completely failed to attain the most basic Christian virtues.
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” In the Church we repeat constantly, “Lord have mercy.” For the confident, this prayer has no meaning. Perhaps it is merely equivalent to “Lord grant me good luck.” However, to the sick, the blind, the sinner, the woman sorely tempted to sin, the man stricken by guilt for past sins, the father and mother who have no idea how to raise their children, to these people, “Lord have mercy” has meaning. It is the sick who need the Physician; the lost who need to be found; the sorrowing who need the Comforter; the confused and storm-tossed who need the Quiet Haven.
Lord grant that spiritual confidence never take root in our minds, but that we always know ourselves to be the poor and needy ones. Lord have mercy.


Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Michael,

Thank you for this post. What is the difference between spiritual confidence and other kinds of confidence? Is there any kind of confidence that is healthy other than confidence in knowing we are loved by God? Is it normal to feel less and less confidence generally the longer you are orthodox?

elderchild said...

The closer one gets, the farther away one realizes they are.......

And the truly "poor and needy" are but "strangers and pilgrims while on this earth".......

Father Help! and HE does.......

elderchild said...

The Family of "Our Father and GOD"! -OR- a system of religion?
"Choose you this day"!

As for the numerous and varied systems of religion )-;

History, up to and including this present moment in time, has proven and yet proves that multiplied millions have been killed and enslaved in the name of the god[s] of this, or that, religion )-;

So it is that the fruit of death is bore of religion's way )-;
For life is but a pawn in the wicked game they play!

And that is but one of a multitude of reasons why "The Way of Truth is evil spoken of", and especially so because of those systems of religion that declare that they are biblically based!

Pagan catholicism, her multitude of harlot christian('jesus') daughters, all muslim sects, and the many judaic systems of this day, all propagate lies, delusion, deception, confusion and every evil work!

Was not biblical religion established for a "disobedient and gainsaying(greedy, covetous) people" who were "stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and ears"? Those who would rather "a man speak to them than YHVH", and who wanted "a man to rule over them rather than The One and Only True GOD, Father(Creator) of ALL"

i believe the first step in realizing what 'religion' is, comes when one truly understands the testimony in James 1:27: "Pure religion and undefiled before GOD and Our Father is this, to visit the fatherless(have no relationship with Our Father) and widows(their bridegroom has not risen from among the dead) in their affliction, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world!"

For understanding reveals that all other 'religion' IS IMPURE AND DEFILED!

Continued @

Fr. Michael said...

Dear ElderChild,
Thank you for contributing to the conversation. However the problem with "simple" spirituality is that it is often mearly spirituality as one person or group understands it and thinks everyone else should. Although, the whole Christain tradition is messy, it nonetheless our Christian tradition. I think we need to take care that we not become like those religious leaders in the Gospel who said,"If we lived in our father's time we would not have joined with them in killing the prophets." Plenty of people have been killed and exploited in the name of simple greed and lust for power regardless of their religious proclivities. It's not bad religion that promotes violence and wickedness so much as it is selfish men and women who use whatever religious and cultural resources that they can manipulate to justify what they want to do.
I am not saying that there are no differences in religions, I am saying that even the pure faith of the Apostles can be twisted and that even a godly person with misinformed faith can do good and maybe even find Christ.