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Flagging and Flabby? Get to the Spiritual Gym!


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Fr Dwight Longenecker - published on 01/03/16

3 tips to getting spiritually fit

After the holiday feasting I’m ready to sign up at the gym. Crammed with Christmas cake and candy, and stuffed like the turkey, I am, like my waistband, overflowing with good intentions and new year resolve. I’d join the gym, except that I’m embarrassed to stand in line with the rest of the flagging and flabby holiday crowd for the torture of the treadmill and those weight machines that remind me of the medieval rack and rope.

Surveys show that 80 percent of people who join the gym in January quit by June. In fact, 4 percent don’t make it past January, and 14 percent more drop out by the end of February. At least they got up and endured the public humiliation of joining the gym in January. I never even make it that far. Instead, I sit at home and wonder how it might be possible to lose weight and get fit without the effort of exercise or the distress of dieting. So I pick up my Bible and ponder again two of my favorite verses, I Timothy 5:23, “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake” and I Timothy 4:8, “Bodily exercise is of little profit.”

Is it possible to lose weight and get fit by sitting around thinking about it? I fear not. I’ve got to haul my flabby body out of the easy chair and do something that isn’t easy: get some exercise. I’ve got to discipline my appetites and exercise some self-control if I’m going to get fit.

It’s the same in my spiritual life. I can’t just sit around thinking about becoming spiritually fit. I’ve got to get some exercise, start eating sensibly and learn some self-discipline.

Therefore, here at the beginning of the year are three pointers to get us spiritually fit. First of all, the exercise: get up out of your spiritual easy chair and go to Mass every week. Go to confession once a month. In this year of mercy, claim God’s mercy in confession; put it in action through the corporal works of mercy. Do you even remember what they are? Go here to refresh what Sister Mary Aquinas taught you so long ago! Just as that 30-minute walk every day begins to make a difference, so the regular exercise of your faith in solid, concrete ways will strengthen you and get you spiritually fit.

Second: eating well. I’m talking about having a healthy spiritual intake. It’s okay to turn off the TV, turn off the iPad and turn off the cell phone to take a break from the constant stream and constant scream of the constant screen. For goodness sake, read a good book! Read a chapter of the Bible every night before you go to sleep, or read part of a chapter, or read part of a part of a chapter. Have a solid book of church history, the saints or theology on the go. Read a classic Catholic novel or a classic Catholic anything. You should stop all the junk food to get physically fit. So stop all the spiritual junk food you are putting in your mind and heart.

Last but not least, learn some self-discipline. Do you want to achieve both spiritual and physical fitness at the same time? Try fasting. Fasting on Friday is a traditional way to cleanse your system physically. Spend more time in prayer. How should you fast? This website will teach you all you need to know. When done properly, and with the right intention, fasting is one of the fastest (’scuse the pun) ways to physical and spiritual fitness.

Believe it or not, getting fit spiritually actually helps us get fit physically. As we grow spiritually we become more confident, more self-disciplined and less reliant on the artificial means of comfort and confidence on which we too often lean. We find that we don’t need that comfort food, that medicating drink or that addictive stimulant. Our hearts are cleaner, our minds are clearer and our bodies are calmer and more confident. Drawing closer to God means we are drawing closer to all things beautiful, good and true.

We become like the thing we worship, so by becoming spiritually fit, the flagging, flabby and false you also starts to become more beautiful good and true.

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