“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way…No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself, should be disqualified.” 1 Cor 9:24-25,27
St. Paul offers us a great image to reflect upon. We are all runners in a spiritual race, a race for the prize of heaven. Our destination and goal is to achieve heaven. But the question is: are we in shape?
Getting is shape is a pre-occupation for some many Americans. We stress eating healthy, exercising, working out and so on. So much time is spent on the body: being fit and looking good. We place our bodies under such physical workouts in order to develop a lean and mean fighting machine, big guns, being in top shape. But what about our spiritual bodies, our soul. Are we spiritually in shape? Can we endure the spiritual race?
St. Paul’s image of the body being fit to run parallels our spiritual condition. His letter asks us to take the opportunity for us to get in spiritual shape, to take a good long look at our spiritual selves. Some of us are not exactly the poster child for a fitness center. Are we a poster child for a spiritual fitness?
Most of the time, if you are out of shape, you dread looking in the mirror. A mirror will reflect the way we are. How much more so will I avoid looking into a spiritual mirror. When I look into my soul is there a lot of fat and waste? When it comes to spiritual exercises (prayer, Mass, meditation, spiritual reading, etc.), how faithful am I? A mirror reminds us, all too painfully sometimes, that we are “out of shape.” Maybe we feel guilty or feel like a failure.
Many of us have attempted to go on a diet, a physical exercise regime. We make promises, plans and even join a club. But how long does that last? Inevitably, we go back to eating, break away from exercise and are back to “out of shape.”
Our lives can be so hectic that is so easy to neglect our spiritual lives like we neglect our physical bodies and we are no longer “in shape” to run. We are tired, out of breath and exhausted, physically and spiritually. We have a thousand excuses for not following through on our plans, our regimes. It’s not like we consciously say “I don’t want to pray” or “I too tired for God.” Like most diets and exercise programs, we just gradually fall away. Today, St. Paul reminds us that we are in a race and must remain “in shape.”
What are some things I can do to maintain a spiritual diet, a spiritual regime of exercises? Maybe we can start small by picking up a prayer book, stopping in church, saying a quick prayer. Maybe we can practice paying someone a compliment or not saying something so critical or so harsh. Maybe we need to just get out of our spiritual easy chair and work against being a spiritual couch potato. Maybe we first need to look into a spiritual mirror and ask for God’s help. Anyone in AA knows the need to admit our problem and seek another’s help. Maybe today we can admit we are spiritual fatboys and ask someone to go for a run with us. Maybe we just need to stop, reflect on St. Paul’s letter and ask ourselves: “Am I spiritually in shape?”
Contributed by one of the Marianists from the Province