GIVEN the material and spiritual dimensions in which our
earthly life has to develop, we really need to learn how to blend the
two together in some unity and consistency without, of course,
confusing them. What is material is material, and what is spiritual is
spiritual, but the two should mutually affect each other. Focusing on
one while neglecting on the other would not be proper to us.
Of the two, it is also a given that it is the spiritual
dimension that should be given prominence and priority. As Christ
himself said, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no
help at all…” (Jn 6,63)
And yet the body can neither be disregarded since, as St.
Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are the members of
Christ…that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?...Therefore,
glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor
We have to learn how to put these two dimensions together
in some mutual relation. We need to spiritualize our material selves,
that is, our body, our flesh, just as we need to materialize our
spiritual selves, that is, our soul.
Otherwise, we would fall into the extremes of
spiritualism, a spirituality devoid of material effects, on the one
hand, and materialism, an ideology that denies any spiritual
constituent in our life, on the other. The former can easily give rise
to hypocrisy and self-righteousness, while the latter can only breed
These isms are akin to what St. James in his letter
described as faith without works, for spiritualism, and works without
faith, for materialism. (cfr. 2,14-26) To be sure, one’s Christian
life may give more emphasis on one over the other, but both should be
given their proper attention and development.
At the moment, it is clear that the materialistic
lifestyle is more rampant in the world today. Just the same, the
purely spiritualistic lifestyle is also growing and, in fact, is
hardening in some sectors. This divide should be overcome because
neither one nor the other is good for us.
Since the time of Christ and the apostles, all kinds of
spiritualities, cultures and lifestyles have expressed their own
versions of how these two dimensions in our life ought to be lived and
interrelated. They always have valid points to give.
But we need to develop a culture that is adapted to our
present conditions. Such culture should take into consideration the
technological developments, the socio-political milieus in the world,
the different sensibilities of the people today, etc.
This aspect of our common life should be given due
attention and should never be taken for granted. It’s true that God is
always around and is in control of things, regardless of how we mess
up his providence. But we are expected to do our part.
We need to learn the art of spiritualizing the material
dimension of our life, and materializing the spiritual as well. To be
sure this is the right path to lead us to the fullness of our human
and Christian life!