Theologian Matthew Leonard says we need to go through stages of spiritual development in order to regain the image of God that has been lost.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Theologian Matthew Leonard says we need to go through stages of spiritual development in order to regain the image of God that has been lost.

July 11, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The goal of this life is divinity, says theologian Matthew Leonard. As Christians, we want to reach a state of grace to "become partakers of the divine nature of God."

"God, in this unprecedented act of love and mercy, offers us a share of who he is," Leonard said at the 21st annual Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne.

"We don't become omnipotent or omnipresent, but God offers us the ability to incorporate ourselves into his family. Through grace we become what he is. That's your dream and destiny, provided you accept it."

However, to reach this goal we must undergo a process of perfection, according to Leonard. "We have to move through stages to be unified with God."

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, perfection happens when something achieves the end for which it was created.

"For example, a seed is perfected when it becomes a tree. A pig becomes perfected when it turns into bacon.

"And it is the same thing with us. We are not fully perfected until we become what you and I are meant to be - divine," Leonard said. "We were created in union with God and we cannot have that union with him until we are fully perfected."

Leonard, a speaker, author, podcaster, blogger and executive director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, has been speaking about the Catholic faith for more than a decade. He and his wife Veronica have five children.

Leonard, a convert, gave three talks at the conference July 1, including one titled Spiritual GPS: The Three Stages of the Spiritual Life.

THREE STAGES

In this talk, he explained the traditional stages of Catholic spiritual life as taught by spiritual greats like St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas and others.

He also explained how to achieve a life of true peace and happiness in the craziness of this world as one moves through the stages of one's spiritual journey.

"We need to go through stages in order to re-acquire the likeness to God that we lost," he said. "Humanity lost that likeness to God when Adam sinned. The whole point of life is getting that likeness back. That's what it is all about."

After going through the stages, Leonard said the important thing is to grow in the spiritual life. "We have to mature. You can't stay a baby, can't stay an adolescent; you've got to mature into real deep spiritual adults.

"That's called perfection, and that's what we are made for and you've got to get yourself and others with you. That's what Catholic life is all about."

ABANDONMENT IS THE KEY

Mass, daily rosary, Confession and prayer are vehicles to get Catholics to their goal. But the key to spiritual perfection is rather simple - abandonment.

"You have to abandon yourself into the hands of the God who out of total humility became one of us and died on the cross so you and I might have an opportunity to have eternal life," Leonard said.

"Nobody loves you more than God, which means we've to start trusting him with every aspect of our lives. This means accepting that whatever happens to you is God's good will for your life."

Leonard urged his audience to "get on the path to God and don't get off because life is too short to get a break."