A New Year is Coming! God’s Gym: Pumping up the Soul, Spirit & Body

A New Year is Coming! God’s Gym: Pumping up the Soul, Spirit & Body December 17, 2023

A New Year is Coming! God’s Gym: Pumping up the Soul, Spirit & Body


Most of us over a certain age worry about our blood pressure, blood sugar, and HDL. But what about the shape our soul and spirit are in? With a New Year coming, wouldn’t it be a good idea to consider pumping up our soul spirit, AND body?

I’m here to “Pump you up!”

In Romans 8: 9-13, St. Paul is fighting an uphill battle. He was writing to the Romans—a decadent and self-centered cosmopolitan. They were artistically avant-garde, technologically advanced, and militarily the walk-away strongest in the world.  A Roman’s life was about the best clothing, the best food, and which gladiator came out on top. Life was cheap and disposable. (Sound familiar?)


What’s in a Maxim?

St. Paul reshaped the Roman phrase, “Life is uncertain, and death—most certain. What matters is how WELL you live, not how LONG.” The Romans believed in an Underworld where the dead soul would, if worthy, live a twilight life and survive only if their ancestors carried their memories. The Roman philosophy was highly influenced by the Greeks, so their ideals matched Virgil’s The Aeneid.

St. Paul agreed that death in this world IS certain. But the soul goes on to live a royal life. It doesn’t matter if your ancestors celebrated your day of birthday and death. It didn’t matter if they celebrated the Remembrance Day of the Dead, known as Di Manes.  No. Your continued life after death had everything to do with how ready you were. How prepared you were in mind, body and spirit. What St. Paul preached was a little spiritual strength training!

“I Saw it, but I Don’t Believe it!”

Even though the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida saw Jesus perform many miracles, they didn’t change (Matthew 11:25-30). They continued as they were. They were like a person who says, Awesome! I’m going to lunch for a big juicy burger and fries! Wanna come?” after their doctor tells them, “Your cholesterol and blood pressure are through the roof! And the pain in your arm means you’re about to have a heart attack.” It’s not like you don’t know what the right thing is. It’s not like you haven’t heard over and over, and over again, “Don’t do that! You’re gonna hurt yourself!”

So, what are Paul and Jesus asking?

Simply put, they want us to go to God’s gym and “work out” our spiritual life to strengthen our souls. Look, no matter what we do in life, it’s going to take time and effort. The more thought, time, and effort we put into any goal, the bigger the payoff—and trust me—THIS is a big payoff!


So, what do WE do at God’s gym?

  • Make the Decision (The first step is the hardest) – The adage “The longest journey starts with one step” comes to mind. Read just one scripture passage a day, then build up to an entire chapter. Let your mind and heart really absorb what is being said. Then, throughout the day, evening, week, etc. mentally come back to that passage, and then to the chapter. Figure out how it fits into your life right now. Was there something that happened at work that looked just like what you read? Something your neighbor did or said that hit the mark? Are you feeling like one of the characters in the story you read? Which one? Why? What did they do? What happened?
  • Stretch Out (You don’t want to pull a muscle) – Start by saying one prayer. Just one, every day. Remember, prayer simply put, is a conversation with God. You can do a prewritten prayer or go free form. The important thing is to connect your mind, heart, and thoughts together. Then, when you’re comfortable with one, add more weight—take on another prayer—to start a longer conversation with God. But just like in working out, listen to what your body is telling you. It’s the same with prayer! Always remember to listen! Listen to that small, almost imperceptible inner voice. You might think “Bah! That’s all in my mind!” Well… Duh! God typically doesn’t send an angel to smack you upside the head and yell in your ear! No! He will whisper a kernel of truth, first in your mind, and then that small seed will grow and spread to your heart and soul.  It will tell you how to direct your workout.
  • Hit it Hard! (Build your endurance) – Now it’s time to step up and really push yourself. Begin to do and live the way the scripture and your prayer life tell you to! This is when the inner voice is really going to flex its muscles. That little inner voice is going to bulk up into the Incredible Conscience Hulk!  It’s going to tell you to help that neighbor. It’s going to tell you not to judge them, just help them. It’s going to try your patience and endurance by telling you to turn your cheek and go that extra mile! Very soon, you’re going to catch yourself doing something you would not have done before. That’s when you know you’re beginning to strengthen your soul and inner spirit!
  • Go for the Gold (Start slowly and don’t get too winded) – Spend a little time in front of the tabernacle. It doesn’t have to be much at first; remember this is the decathlon of events. I know several people who pop in for a quick “Hi, God!” when they’re driving by a church. It’s an exercise to get you used to realizing first, that God IS alive and well, and that you can communicate with Him any time you want! It’s also showing God (and yourself) that you not only respect God, but you’re willing to go that extra to come and visit Him on His turf. So, you made the 5–10 minutes? Great! Push a little farther. Go for 15, 30, 60 minutes! “But I’ll be bored!” you say. Take things with you to do—a bible to read, devotional material, a rosary, etc. Or you can be like St. John Vianney. When he was asked, “So, what do you do in church in front of the tabernacle every day?” St. John said, “Oh, I just sit there, and look at Him, while He looks at me…”
  • Be a multi-medal winner! (Time to overachieve) – when you are reading Sacred Scripture on a regular basis and putting it to daily use… when you are flexing your newfound muscles in daily prayer… when you are listening and acting upon your conscience… when you are dropping by to say, “Hi God,” on a regular basis… It’s time to push yourself for the finish line—daily Mass. Yup, you read that right. Daily Mass. Daily Mass is chocked full of special graces—or special favors and benefits from God. But more importantly, you are giving the most precious things you have to God—Worship, yourself, and your time.

So? When does YOUR workout start?

About Ben Bongers KM
Ben Bongers was an international operatic tenor and practicing sommelier for 30 years based in San Francisco, CA, and Europe. He has written monthly articles for trade magazines in wine and singing over a long and lustrous career. After becoming a semi-full-time caretaker for his parents, he earned an MA in Gerontology (the study of aging and care) and was asked to publish in an eldercare textbook in 2020. He has written several books, all published by EnRoute Books and Media. His first novel, THE SAINT NICHOLAS SOCIETY, has won many awards, and his other two, TRUE LOVE—12 Christmas Stories My True Love Gave to Me, and THE FARMER, THE MINER, THE ARTISAN (a children’s book) are both up for writing awards. Ben is a Knight in the Order of Malta and helped start an overnight homeless shelter at his San Francisco, CA parish. Today, he is a Permanent Diaconate Candidate in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about the author here.

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