"Now the natural man does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Today's readings are particularly difficult for me. From the context I would guess that Paul's "natural man" refers to one who is dominated by the worldly. Things of the flesh rather than things of the Spirit guide this person's actions. Based on what I see on television, the "natural man" dominates our society. For these people I do not think that the guiding principles have changed much in 2000 years.
For the intellectual there are have been major changes. Consider the explanations of what governs our feelings and choices. I imagine myself in the role of a clinical psychologist who is given today's readings. Paul would be immediately diagnosed as suffering from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. In today's world what was once thought of as an encounter with a demon is now labeled as a form of mental illness. Science provides explanations that do not require the spiritual. Feelings of peace and elation are reduced to their chemical sources. Pharmaceuticals are available to evoke these feelings.
Nevertheless, in this reductionist world what I believe grows out of my data, my experience. I believe I have felt the Spirit although encounters with the Spirit are from routine in my experience. In today's world such statements are frowned upon by many of my intellectual colleagues. Models of the world, which provide for the spiritual, require more complexity than the description which science gives us. Such a perspective is incompatible with a worldview based on testable hypotheses. The translation from Paul's letter is just as challenging when reread from the context of an analytical person as it was to the "natural man".
What does my experience tell me and how do I know my explanation is correct? (I could argue that the consolation I may feel in my interpretation is as good as that of rationalist who finds beauty in serendipity.) In reality I don't know what is the Big Answer, but I feel my life has more meaning if I am willing to entertain the spiritual. The answers are not clear-cut. Fortunately we are open to experiences that go beyond our senses, experiences that temper our rationalism. A child's love, a spouse's affection, the touch of the Transcendent - these are all gifts that impact my life, but they are not easily characterized scientifically.
My prayer today is in gratitude for grace that allows humans to learn from their hearts as well as their heads. I pray that I may be open to the experiences that bring me true consolation.
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