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A Primer on Spiritual Development (Part 10)

Yesterday we answered the question why despite its relevance to the different areas of our life, spiritual development has not been given due emphasis in our personal development. Today we discuss how the seed of the spirit is sown in us, how it is conceived and born in us.

23. You said before that the spirit begins as a seed in us and this seed is the word of God. Can you elaborate on this, particularly how the seed of God’s word is implanted in us?

Yes, as we learned in number 12 of this Primer, the spirit has a seed, just like the plants, animals, and human beings. And this seed is the word of God and also the seed of the kingdom of God within us. This seed is normally planted in us through preaching. As the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church of Vatican Council II says, “The chief means of the planting referred to is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

(These discussions are from a Christian perspective because I am a Christian, but I do not exclude the possibility that writers of other faiths can also express these truths using their own Scriptures and beliefs.)

It is most wonderful that we find similarities between our physical world and the spiritual world. This enables us to learn of spiritual realities through physical realities, those that we see with our eyes and perceive with our other senses.

In the physical world the seed of the human being comes from the human male. The egg is in the human female. The egg is fertilized by the seed or sperm of the male. In a similar way the egg of the spirit is already in us. It waits to be fertilized by the seed of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and which is planted in us by the preaching of the Gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ.

When the Word of God is preached to us, we notice a certain attraction to that Word. This is the moment when the Word is implanted in us. Just like in the physical body when the sperm fertilizes the egg, conception takes place, so also in the spiritual world when the Word of God is planted in us by preaching, if we receive this Word with open heart, conception of the Word begins in us. That is why Augustine the Bishop of Hippo in his Sermon 293, 3, said: “we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.”

After a certain time of gestation this Word is brought forth as spirit, our spirit, just as in our physical body after more or less nine months a human being is born.

But in the world of the spirit the gestation is not measured by the same number of months. Each has his/her own unique length of gestation of the Word in him/her. Some may even take years after the conception of the Word before the spirit of that person is born.

24. How do we know that the spirit is already born in us?

We know this when we are already able to understand the Word of God and are able to pray with meaning. Some Christians say that this birth happens during baptism. Yes, to a certain extent it happens there, but it happens there as a mystery, as a hidden act of God through the ministers. We have to actualize this when we grow.

Here are beautiful words from Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome, in his Letter 31: “But through this wonderful blending the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom Christ was conceived and brought forth we too might be born again in a spiritual birth; and in consequence the evangelist declares the faithful to have been born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Notice what Leo says, “spiritual birth”. Our first birth is physical birth. Then when the Word of God has been conceived in us and born in us, we undergo this spiritual birth. We are born as spirit.

Thus the spirit is born in us. As Jesus said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Tomorrow our topic is how the spirit in us grows and matures.

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