Keeping in shape is hard work. It involves scheduling time in a busy day to work out, sometimes conquering inertia and lack of motivation to get up and go, and developing the self-discipline it takes to actually put in the work of performing the exercise. It’s sweaty and grueling, and not for the faint of heart. Growing in the spiritual life is similar; it requires diligent labor and effort. We can not grow and mature spiritually without putting in time with Jesus in prayer and receiving the sacraments. To achieve both physical and spiritual health, we make sacrifices and do things that are hard and difficult.
If you’ve ever lifted weights, you know how exhausting but invigorating it can be. I love to do Les Mills classes at my gym, which are choreographed weight training classes. It’s a full hour of gritting my teeth and sweating up a storm, but I feel amazing when I put my weights up and walk out of there! Squats are the worst! You’ve got the heaviest weight of the day perched on your shoulders as you squat up and down for about six long minutes. But it is this intense work that tones and builds muscle and releases scores of endorphins.
Committing to a regimen of prayer for me has sometimes been comparable to those squats, as unlike as those activities are. Prayer, especially mental prayer, requires a person to put away distractions and be inwardly focused, and can be difficult with all of the noise and distraction of today. Like lifting weights, it requires setting aside a certain period of the day devoted entirely to prayer. As a wife and mother, I try to devote thirty minutes a day to meditative prayer, reading and reflecting on scripture, and this has made a tremendous difference in my spiritual life. Like the “runner’s high” after exercise, I have experienced increased peace and serenity when I am faithful to my prayer routine.
To become healthy takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. The benefits are noticed after consistently eating healthy and exercising over a long period of time. Similarly, we must be patient and realize that God usually changes and transforms us over time and not immediately. Persistence and perseverance are necessary when we set out to follow Christ and grow in our faith.
When a person first decides to get in shape, he must first become convinced that the benefits of exercise outweigh any difficulty or inconvenience he will encounter. He has to believe that having a healthy diet and exercising are worth the effort and not a waste of time. If we have been fortunate enough to be raised in the Faith or to have discovered the truths of the Catholic Church later in life, we understand the importance of nurturing our spiritual life so that we can be with God in heaven when we die. In today’s society, however, many are not convinced in the existence of a loving and forgiving God, and so feel they have no need for prayer or organized religion. They see no need for spiritual health because they do not believe in eternal life with God. As faithful Catholics, it is our duty to maintain our own spiritual life not only for ourselves, but also so we can be healthy and strong enough to evangelize and help others to come to know God. Many of us were helped by a spiritual mentor or guide at some point in our lives. Hopefully we can pay it back and reach out to others who are in need of direction and love to come to the Faith.
In short, everyone want to be physically healthy – to look and feel good and to experience the health benefits from being in shape. Shouldn’t we be as concerned for our spiritual health and well-being as well?