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“A Spiritual Immersion Program” by Linda Granzow

In 07 Observations on 2013/03/27 at 12:00 AM

My daughter is pursuing fluency in Spanish.  At the age of almost 17, she is also pursuing, with great fervor and persuasion of her parents, the opportunity to sojourn in Spain this summer for a four-week immersion program, where she will use the language out of necessity on a daily basis, live with a Spanish family, take classes, participate in cultural activities and ultimately, detaching herself from the familiar and comfortable habits and ways of her life, rise to the challenge and truly unlock the hidden potential within herself to expand not only a part of her brain, but also her very “being” which will be forever changed.

In the meantime, she is grinding through the learning of Spanish grammar, in all of its intricate uses of preterite, imperfect and future tenses.  So it should have come as no surprise to me when she offhandedly commented after Ash Wednesday Mass that the words spoken at the distribution of the ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” seemed grammatically inaccurate.  How could it be possible to be dust, yet in the same breath be reminded that you will be dust someday?  One implies that you already are and the latter that you were and will be again.

In Genesis, we read that God formed man from the earth, the dust, a physical transformation that could only be wrought by the Creator Himself.  In the span of time in which the physical body is breathing and walking and living on this earth, it is still a temporary “temple,” as St. Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians, a sacred vessel for God’s Holy Spirit that lies within it, the soul which the Creator infused into the body at its inception.  The body will change in myriad ways as it matures, but no matter how well it is nourished and nurtured and strengthened, it will ultimately and literally return to the earth, to dust.  But what of the soul within that body?  Since we “believe in the visible and invisible” (our Creed), the soul, although it cannot be seen, is as real as any other organ in the body and it too changes during the life of a person.  It too will develop and journey through myriad changes, whether it is nurtured or ignored, weakened or strengthened through free acts of the will and the intellect.  But unlike the body, the soul is not created from the dust, so it will never return there.  This very essence of “being,” as unique as the body itself from every other person who ever lived or will live, is forever changed and will continue on into eternity—an eternity with Him or without Him.  It is hard to imagine spending an eternity with someone if you do not speak the same language.

We are born into the family of mankind where we speak the native language of a fallen human nature.  But the deepest longing of our soul, whether we realize it or not, is to speak the perfect love language of God and with God.   In the pursuit of this fluency, we will undoubtedly encounter mispronunciations in the form of sin.  But as in learning a foreign language, the more we follow the rules of the language, learn the vocabulary and immerse ourselves in a day-to-day practice of the language, we will transform ourselves in such a way that speaking this language of love, which is God, will flow out of us almost effortlessly.

Now is the time to begin our own spiritual immersion program in which to improve our fluency in the language of the soul—the love language spoken by God to each of us every day of our earthly lives.  Detaching ourselves from our familiar habits, participating in the disciplines and devotions of our faith and sustaining ourselves with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, will impel us to rise to the challenge of learning His language and ultimately, when our bodies return to the dust, our souls will be able to speak fluently with Him in eternity.

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