I'm not really religious, I'm spiritual

Homily for Trinity Sunday 2012
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

How often have you heard someone say,
“Well, I’m not really religious. I’m a spiritual person
-- but not really religious”?

You’ve probably heard that from family members,
from friends and neighbors, from Catholics who’ve left the Church,
or from a complete stranger sitting next to you on a plane.

Maybe such a sentiment sometimes stirs in your own heart…

Of course, as a priest, I have nothing against people being spiritual!
I’m all for everyone being spiritual, for everyone having a spiritual life.
But I find it difficult to understand how one can be spiritual
without being religious.

• The word spiritual comes from the Latin, spiritus (spirit) and means
“of, relating to or affecting the spirit, the soul
as opposed to material or physical things.”
Certainly in a world of materialism and consumerism,
being spiritual is something to be commended and encouraged.

• The word religious comes from the Latin, ligare: to bind or connect.
(Think of ligaments and how they function in the human anatomy).
In its roots, then, religious has a very physical connotation:
for persons to be connected not only to God and to one another.

• Now, being spiritual and being religious are not opposites.
To the contrary, they share much in common
– you might even say they share everything in common -
even so much so that you can’t have one without the other.

Unless… you actually are an angel! If you are a totally spiritual being,
then you can only connect with God spiritually.
But you and I? We’re no angels! We’re human beings – with souls.
Yes, we want to have a spiritual life but because we’re human beings,
born and made of flesh and blood and bone – and ligaments! –
because we’re human we experience the spiritual through our humanity,
through our physical, religious connections
At least this is the case for any who call themselves Christian,
who believe in the Word made flesh.

My purpose here is not to critique those who tell us
they’re “spiritual but not religious.”
but rather to remind us of why we are both spiritual and religious
and why, as Christians,we must be both.

Trinity Sunday is a fine day for remembering this truth.

Our Catholic Christian faith, yours and mine, is religious:
that is, it’s filled with ligaments, with connections,
linking, binding us to God
and to our life in communion with one another in Christ.

We are linked together as one
through the faith that others have shared with us,
through word and deed, often since our birth.

No one becomes a believer out of nowhere. Others lead us to faith.

We are connected through the Word of scripture we hear every weekend
as others proclaim and preach it for us.
We are connected through the sacraments we celebrate and receive.
Such experiences can only be ours when we connect with one another.
We are bound together in the prayer we share at the Lord’s Table
and by the power of God’s Spirit moving in us
and through us, and among us – always.
Our spiritual lives are experienced through the connections we make
with God, through others, in the faith we share.

Being a Christian is as much an affair of the body as it is of the spirit.
And that’s because we’re human beings and all human experience,
including our spiritual lives, is mediated through our bodies
and our relationships with others.

Even the Trinity, the way we come to know and understand who God is,
shows us the importance of being connected, bound as one,
in communion with others: Father, Son and Spirit.
The Trinity is a mystery of faith: we don’t altogether understand
how there are three persons in one God.
But what we can understand,
because we know it in our own human lives,
what we can understand is that even in the Divine,
there are persons, connected, bound as One,
in a communion so holy we name it: God.

Sometimes, and very sadly so, the “ligaments” of faith,
the binding, spiritual connections we share,
sometimes those ligaments are torn.
Our Catholic Church is no stranger to the pain of torn ligaments.
But it’s precisely in our religious life,
in our human experience of the spiritual,
that we come to know the pain of disconnection
and the desire for healing.

In such pain, a retreat to solitary spirituality
will never suffice to replace the connection, the union,
the com-munion that is ours in Christ in the Church.
Our religious life calls us to be open
to the healing the Spirit offers our souls
whenever our spiritual ties with God and with one another
come asunder.

There is no better sign of all of this than the Eucharist
where, in the Body of Christ, broken again in the bread we offer
and in the Blood of Christ, poured out again in the cup we share,
the Lord forgives, heals and restores our brokenness
and nourishes us for strengthening the religious ties
that connect and bind us to God and to one another.

Pray with me that in religiously tending to our own life in the Spirit,
there may be found a Church to draw in any and all spiritual people
whose desire is for God
and whose faith waits to be shared.


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