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Religion vs. Spiritual

The other day I was out to a parishioner’s house and a few of their friends were there.  Among the topics of conversation was a discussion on how we look at our faith.  Do we see our faith as a “religion” or do we see it as a “spirituality”?

The question is nothing new but I believe it is something that we all need to reflect on from time to time.  Viewed this way, “religion” focuses on knowing what’s in the Bible, what the Commandments are, reciting prayers, and physically coming to church.  “Spirituality” focuses on how we connect ourselves to God in our hearts and how we apply our faith to our daily lives.  Spirituality sees prayer as a conversation with God rather than just reciting prayers.

Another way to look at it is to take the approach that Paul takes in his Letters that we read in the New Testament (ex.  Galatians chapter 5).  He sees the Law (as read in the Old Testament) as something the people did because that is what the Commandments said.  Paul calls us now to cast off the Law and live by the Spirit.  Paul is not talking about being a “free spirit” but rather to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Paul tells us that our observance of the Law cannot save us.  We need to live by the Spirit.

So which do you think is the correct approach, religion or spirituality?

If you answered “religion”, I think you are wrong.  If you answered “spirituality”, I think you are wrong.  Now you are probably thinking I only gave you two choices, how can they both be wrong?  Because I believe the correct answer has to be both.  Religion is not enough to save us but without religion we lack a genuine foundation for a spirituality.  Some people say they are spiritual and don’t need to come to church.  I ask what is spirituality without church.  Some say everyone needs to interpret the Bible for themselves.  I wonder how you begin to interpret it without a foundation based on religion known through church.  Remember, the Law came from God.  It is good.

Conversely, just coming to church is not enough.  In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read “‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!’”  It is not enough just to come to church.  It is not enough to just know a religion.  We need to be religious but then to live our religion as an integral part of our lives.  Only then are we spiritual and really live our faith.


Fr. Jeff

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