Spiritual man vs. carnal man
THIS distinction, I believe, is most basic and indispensable to be known by all. I would even go to the extent of saying that it would be criminal to be ignorant of it, since it gives us the two fundamental choices we have to make in our life. We cannot go on with our life without knowing and making these options, one or the other.
The distinction comes from St. Paul. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he talks about what is to be spiritual and what is to be unspiritual or sensual, carnal, worldly. First he says that a man is known by the spirit that is in him.
“For what man knows the things of a man, but the spirit of the man that is in him?” (2,11) Then he talks about two basic spirits: the Spirit of God or the spirit of the world. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” (2,12)
Then he describes this truth of faith, this doctrine in this way: “We impart this (Spirit of God) in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.” (2,13)
A comparison between the spiritual man and the unspiritual man follows. “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (2,14)
The spiritual man enters and will have the “mind of Christ.” The unspiritual man remains simply with his own mind. This is a distinction that can only be accessed through faith, with reason and everything else, and not only by reason alone.
In the gospel of St. John, we are also told about the spirit being the principle of life proper to us. “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail,” our Lord says (6,63).
We have to be clear about this, because discussing this truth by reason alone will only lead us nowhere, in spite of the flashes of intelligence and all that can take place.
And so, there’s no point convincing people about this truth using reason alone. As St. Paul said, it is “not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.”
So those who do not have the Spirit yet, or who appear not to have it, I suppose the thing to do is to use the spiritual and supernatural means more than the human ones.
That is, we have to intensify our prayer, sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, ascetical struggle, hard work and study, development of virtues, giving good example, living Marian and other devotions, etc.
Again, in the gospel of St. John, our Lord talks about the need to be born again of water and the Spirit, that is, from the flesh to the Spirit, because “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (3,6)
These words have clear reference to the need for the sacrament of baptism that incorporates us into the body of Christ, the Church, and leads us to receive all the other gifts from God given to us through the Church—other sacraments, word of God, etc.
We can never exaggerate our need to keep our union with God all day, that is, to be very spiritually alive and avoid lapsing into being unspiritual, sensual, carnal or worldly.
We contend with powerful enemies of our spiritual soul, and so anything that will help to keep these enemies at bay, especially in our vulnerable moments, is always welcome.
We contend with our own weaknesses and the many temptations around. We have our erratic and rebellious testosterone, our tendency to greed, pride, vanity, etc. It certainly would be a good idea that we develop a certain lifestyle, supported with an appropriate plan or program of activities that would keep us always with God.
For one, the practice of daily mental prayer would be good, going to Mass and Communion, Holy Rosary, spiritual reading, continual aspirations that would keep us in constant dialogue with God, would be very helpful.
The bottom line is that we should be aware of our responsibility to develop and keep our spiritual life healthy and vibrant.
By: Fr. Roy Cimagala
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