Crunch! Crack! Snap! That’s how I describe my visits to the chiropractor. Not for the faint of heart, that.
Once I asked the doctor what she hoped to achieve by the cruel and inhuman torture techniques. The goal, she replied, is to remove interference so that the body can function as designed. Adjustment of the spine, relief of pressure from a nerve, enabling a joint to move easily –all these have as their aim the enabling of the body to perform in accord with its nature.
Removal of interference. Hmmm. One can apply that to the spiritual life as well.
We are not just our bodies. We are a mysterious union of body and soul. As such the human person is created for a relationship of covenant love with God. Yet, we can allow many different kinds of interference to get in the way of living in accord with the body-soul’s theological design. Not attending to this can leave us crippled spiritually.
We could go on at length about this. For now, I’ll focus on the interference that stands at the root of all other obstacles to a healthy spiritual life, namely, the choice of self over God. This takes us back to the original sin of Adam and Eve, who refused dependence upon the wisdom and providence of God and chose instead to rely upon themselves.
We know how that turned out. Yet, we make their decision our own whenever we choose to follow our own will rather than that of Almighty God, and inevitably suffer the consequences.
The removal of the interference, the transformation from self-centeredness to God-centeredness, is what we mean by repentance. This can be painful. It necessarily involves no longer believing the lie that we do not need God. This, in turn, demands that we no longer listen to the multiple lies that others tell us, or that we tell ourselves, in order to rationalize and justify what is, in effect, our crippled state. Conversion is a surrender to truth. Without this fundamental adjustment, however painful we find it, our body-soul unity will not function as designed by its Maker.
A visit to the chiropractor allows freedom of movement. Liberty of the soul comes from a visit to the confessional. There the divine physician, by the working of grace and mercy, identifies the obstacles and, by forgiveness, removes the interference.
Anyone who visits a chiropractor knows that it must be followed up by faithfully doing the requisite exercises and stretches. Proper spiritual functioning demands the exercise of faith and obedience, which does, indeed, stretch us. But God does not leave us to our own devices here.
The Church last Sunday celebrated the bestowal of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That solemnity was followed immediately the next day by the celebration of Mary, the Mother of the Church. The two together are instructive.
The Holy Spirit is granted to believers to unite them to Christ and thus enable them to live a life of surrender – in faith, hope and love – to Jesus and, in him, to the Father. The perfect model of Christian obedience is Mary, the mother of the Lord, who, from the Cross, gave her to the Church as our mother, too.
May the example and intercession of the Blessed Mother help us remain always attentive and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so as thus to live in accord with the design and purposes of God.