So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Shedding spiritual fat outside of Lent. Must do mystagogy.

Lent is done. Or, is it? Have we forgotten about the Friday Fast? "Hidden" among these celebratory days of the Resurrection, rightly a time for the brethren to feast, the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil continues.

Spring is often a cue to many folk to shed the fat that has attached itself to one's midsection during the fall and winter months. It's time to inflate the bicycle tires in order to rid oneself of that ol' spare tire 'round one's waste. It's time to don walking shoes to get some exercise. It's time to give up that "bad relationship" with food, that habitual compromise of one's better judgement which for some entails the sound of a mother's voice. "Eat your vegetables!"

Out with burgers and fries; in with salads. Out with excess butter; in with dry toast. Count calories; shun candy. There are times when the cholesterol debate makes one think that no matter how well one eats, everything is bad for you/me.

Everything in moderation, the saying goes; the problem is one of discipline. So often, unhealthy stuff tastes so good, and temptations abound. "Resistance is futile." Getting started requires a willingness to make little changes. Beware of health programs that promise too much, slick programs that appeal to vanity and may very well lead to another bad habit of some kind.

The struggle to overcome physical fat has been raised to the level of jihad, a holy war of epic proportions in our fashion model modern society. Hot yoga, Pilates, various boot camp inspired workouts, running clubs, walking clubs, recreational swimming clubs, slow-pitch teams, all clamour for attention in the competition to relieve people of their hard-earned cash.

While so many pursue with fanaticism the eradication of human blubber, human minds—somewhat sharpened by exercise—often retain unhealthy attitudes, remaining flaccid or drugged up by a fixation with body image that distracts from a fundamentally important aspect of human existence: the health of the soul. Yes, it is vitally important to exercise, rest and eat properly. The need to refine one's spiritual health must be paramount so one can cooperate with God's grace to achieve the everlasting benefit of salvation and eternal life in Christ.

What are you doing to cooperate with God to help guide you along the spiritual health track?

Saint Paul compared physical athleticism with spiritual athleticism to describe the need for and benefits of staying spiritually fit.
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Earlier in the same chapter, Saint Paul makes clear how important a healthy spiritual diet is to completing the race, to winning the spiritual fight.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. 
2 Timothy 4:3-8
To put it another way,
For the time is coming when people will not endure spiritual cuisine, but having disordered inclinations they will acquire for themselves junk food to suit their own tastes, and will turn away from the facts conveyed to them by their doctors and become diseased. As for you, always eat rightly, endure exercise, do the work of a fitness trainer, lead others to health and eternal salvation.
Mind and body are distinct, but not alien to each other. We, unlike angels, are enfleshed souls created by God. We need God's grace to help us live as God intends. Our consent to God's will, then, must necessary be in mind and body. Thus, the mind and the body must be trained together, disciplined together.
Latin disciplina "instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge," also "object of instruction, knowledge, science, military discipline," from discipulus
A diet of spiritual exercise and liturgical cuisine.

A daily examination of conscience (examen) is indispensable for the spiritual athlete who trains to tame disordered desires. It is far too easy to allow one's minor faults to turn into major flaws merely because one did not attend to a wound when the wound was small. Sin infects the unattended wound and causes it to fester.

Fasting, too, aids greatly in the recovery of priorities. We soon realize that an inordinate attachment to bodily pleasures may have begun with an attachment to a relatively benign form of satisfaction or gratification, but that the imagination, flooded with possibilities, added fuel to the fire, and what began as perhaps an attraction to a useful thing (e.g., to a form of social media) has become trained by lust into a soul-killing habit, an addiction in the soul to mortal sin (pornography, violence, gossip). Fasting reorients our hearts and minds toward goodness.

Similarly, abstaining focusses on a specific object to provide an incremental taming of the senses and provides one with the very practical ability to make small course corrections that can turn one's ship completely around to orient one away from dangerous shoals toward the safe harbour of freedom and peace in Jesus Christ. By taming the body one tames the mind. By taming the mind, one tames the body. Both approaches are necessary and most effective when engaged together. Grace is available to assist us to make changes for the better. We need but ask for that grace and God gives generously to all Who call upon Him.

To borrow a term, one needs a 'life coach' with whom one can honestly assess one's state in life and from whom one can receive the necessary directions to ensure one is on a correct course. The Sacrament of Penance is the ultimate health program. Gluttony, pride, avarice—the deadly sins are challenged in the Sacrament of Penance. One vows with the help of the Holy Spirit to avoid near occasions of sin. It may take several attempts to give up a particular sin—but never give up. Never. Give. Up!

The hold that sin has on one's life must be broken. To break a bad habit, one must replace it with a good habit. Keep that in mind the next time you are assigned your penance in the confessional. Follow the priest's directions and trust in God! Do not let the devil's whispers lead you to believe that you cannot change. You can change! Ask God for the grace to change, and He will give you His very Presence to lift you up. When you fall, immediately get up and walk, or run, to the nearest confessional!

The Mass, if it is rotten with saccharine music, sentimental jargony sermons, tacky big screen displays or "liturgical" dance performed by scantily clad nymphettes, will send a mixed message. The Mass is heaven on earth, but it looks more like Hallowe'en at a dollar discount store when people get their grubby hands all over it. Is the Sacred Liturgy a sacrifice or a picnic? Is the Mass popcorn—mmm, popcorn—or is it a banquet meant to be fit for a prince and the pauper with whom the Prince of Peace shares all that He is, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity?

Best defence; strong offence.

In times of temptation, recall a brief phrase that places you squarely within the Lord's camp. For instance, make the Sign of the Cross (the large Sign or, discreetly, the small Sign upon your forehead) and pray
Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
God needs your consent to work in your life. He will hound you to bring you back to Him, to life. The trials we experience, whether of our own making or those imposed upon us by others or circumstances, can be opportunities to draw nearer to the Lord, to trust in God Who protects us when all our efforts whither. Trust God with little things and big things alike. No situation is too small nor too large for God to handle. After all, He is God; we are His children. God is there present to rescue us in the worst moments that life, disfigured by human sin, has to offer.

Giving up means giving to.

Aided by grace, we can overcome even the most entrenched addiction. By giving up the need for excessive amounts of food, or the desire for disordered pleasure or a fixation with self satisfaction, we can redirect our recovered freedom and energy to assist people in ways pleasing to God.

Immersion in Scripture

Take a daily hot bath in Holy Scripture, a cold shower in the word of God. Give to your heart and mind the food which ennobles the soul and which reminds you of your dignity in the sight of God. God created us in His image and likeness. Before baptism, that likeness was tarnished. We, once washed, became able to love as God loves, live as God lives. We need the wisdom of Scripture to purify us of the lingering influence of the Fall which, like pollen in the Spring, saturates the air of contemporary culture, waiting to be inhaled and to cause us to sneeze away virtue.

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