I knew a person to whom this happened, and who, through having herself gone far astray was glad that others should profit by the favors God had shown her, she would describe the way of prayer to those who did not understand it, and she brought them very, very great profit. (Interior Castle: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Three)
Some receive spiritual favors from God. They grow in self-knowledge and humility and serve Him. Then, Teresa says, they begin to live a careless life and stray from the commandments. But since they generally live a good life, God continues to use them to teach and profit others. In doing so, God reaps the benefits of the spiritual favors and gifts he has given them, but meaningful activity rarely occurs in their own spiritual life. Unfortunately, many spiritual leaders have gone this way: week after week they offer wise guidance or serve others, but inside they’re spiritually empty.
It’s even worse for a few others. They’ve been “called by the Lord to apostleship, as Judas was, and enjoy communion with Him, or are called to be made kings, as Saul was, and afterward, through their own fault are lost.” Teresa goes on to say, “we may deduce that, if we are to acquire increasing merit, and not, like Saul and Judas to be lost, our only possible safety consists in obedience and in never swerving from the law of God”.
What about you and me? Are we spiritually careless and relying on living a “good life” to get us by? Are we using our gifts and past spiritual favors to benefit others, but have left our own relationship with God unattended? There’s still hope to get back on track. Teresa talks about how she once went astray and “Later, the Lord gave her new light.” In the next chapter of the Interior Castle we’ll learn how to act on that light and return to a thriving spiritual life.