Software Update of the Spirit

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Every once in a while I get a message on my computer telling me it’s time for a software update. I can’t explain even vaguely how it all works, but I have a general idea. Since all our electronic devices run on computer systems, the people who create these devices and the software that make our devices function are constantly striving to improve their products, making their overall functioning more efficient, economizing power consumption, making them more compatible with other devices and programs. And in the vast digital universe, more and more devices and programs are bound to interact with each other with greater frequency and interdependence. So it makes perfect sense to keep up with all the ongoing advancements and innovations within the industry, or your product becomes irrelevant. Newer and better products are being created constantly. So keep up, or get left behind. This environment is ideal for new product development and market competition. And time will come when a soft reset just won’t do the trick. If you still have no clue what I’m talking about, hang in there.

So it’s no big surprise that everything in our known universe will enjoy a limited window of popularity and function, no matter how awesome and impressive their first appearance on the scene. Think of the things we consider ordinary and commonplace today that a generation or two ago were heralded as game-changers and marvels of an amazing future, like the combustion engine, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, mass transportation, photography, synthetic fabrics, digital technology, home publishing, and social media. They usually make a grand entrance onto the world stage with much fanfare and media attention. They are celebrated for creating new industries, advancing knowledge, enhancing culture, and generally improving our lives. But whether we like it or not, they will at some point be improved upon, surpassed, and replaced, sending them into retirement to collect dust in many a basement, attic, and museum, and fondly revered as throwbacks to a bygone era, classic, vintage, antique, outdated, obsolete.

When human beings first walked the earth—I don’t know, I wasn’t there—a lot of things had to be new and exciting. I mean until that point if no one walked upright or had opposable thumbs, they had to be game-changers, amazing marvels heralding an amazing future. What new and exciting discoveries must have caught the attention of our ancestors then? Fire, tools, bacon—makes sense to me, cave paintings, farming, community life, the latest in stone-age cosmetics and fashion. At some point all these new and exciting discoveries became just ordinary and commonplace, all the way up to the present and our new and exciting inventions that none of them could have ever imagined. Even human lifespans began to extend longer with the benefits of better nutrition, better sanitation, better overall living conditions, better defenses, and better community structures. But the one thing that has not changed was that like all living things, human beings do enjoy a limited window of popularity and function, no matter how awesome and impressive our first appearance on the scene. Just as at some point we set foot on the stage of history, so at some other point we leave, making room for new people, to build on what we have done, to improve on what we leave behind.

The book of Wisdom tells us that God did not make death. We are created to be imperishable, made in the image of God’s own nature. Further along, the passage says it was the envy of the devil that brought death into the world. Now God is spirit, not flesh. And that which is spirit is eternal, while that which is flesh is temporal. So we understand that it is our spirit that is created in God’s image. It is our spirit that gives us a dignity like that of God. But our eternal spirits are contained in physical temporal bodies. The discussion is purely academic. Each of us is a unified whole person, our spirit and body being inseparable. So we care for and respect our body as we would care for and respect our spirit. As we avoid what might harm our body, so we should avoid what might harm our spirit. Scripture says death came into the world by the envy of the devil, but more accurately a death that harms the spirit. This is sin. The death that we and all created beings experience is not a flaw of our nature. To be a creature is to be temporal. God alone is uncreated, and would not experience death. Fortunately for us, God does bestow eternal life on whomever he chooses. And God has given us a share of his imperishable spirit, created in the image of God’s own nature.

So whenever Jesus came face to face with evil during his earthly ministry, his greater concern was to extend God’s goodness to oppose that evil. He would declare that a person was forgiven their sins even before hinting on any kind of physical healing. But people are often shortsighted. We tend to focus on what is visible, what we can grasp with our bodily senses. During his time among us, Jesus extended physical healing and life to those who experienced physical illness and death to show that he also had power and authority to extend spiritual healing and eternal life. Sin brings spiritual illness and death. So forgiveness and reconciliation brings spiritual healing and life. Physical illness and death are not necessarily evidence of sin. Even good people experience physical illness and death. The Son of God himself died a physical death. He probably knew what a headache was, though the gospels are silent on the subject. He may have even caught a cold at some point, a stomach bug, chicken pox, who knows? The point is, God desires for us spiritual healing and eternal life, which Jesus extended to people throughout his earthly ministry in the form of mercy and forgiveness. The healing and life of our physical bodies are a wonderful sign of God’s love and care for us. But God is much more concerned about our spirit, that the illnesses of our spirit are healed, and that we will never come to know spiritual death.

A church window depicts Jesus healing the blind man. (CNS photo/Crosiers) With Faith Alive! No. 13 MIDST, March 25, 2013.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul asks the Christian community to generously assist fellow Christians in another community with financial support. And the second collection is born. The argument he makes stems from the account in Exodus of God providing manna to feed his people as they journeyed through the desert. When we recognize that our blessings ultimately come from God, and that God is not stingy, we can see how our blessings are meant to be shared. Because God shares with us, we should share with our neighbors. This attitude and the behavior that follows is a clear sign that we care for and respect our physical bodies and needs, as well as that of our neighbors. It is an improvement on selfishness, which is a natural human default.

So we assist in building God’s kingdom on earth by advancing on our own love of God and our neighbor. Whenever we gain deeper understanding and grow in virtue, we are receiving a software update of the spirit, which helps us to grow spiritually and live our faith more meaningfully among non-believers and people of faith alike in a world that is always changing and embracing a future none of us can ever imagine.

Rolo B Castillo © 2018

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