Spiritual Fitness

Last week Father Adrian opened the newspaper and told us what the Stars might have in store for us this year!

This week I want us to think about that other perennial occurrence: the making, and breaking, of New Year’s Resolutions.

One common resolution is to get fit, and live a healthier lifestyle! As well as the talk of “Dry January” and “Veganuary”, the Eastern Daily Press had an article on seven gyms in Norwich which were doing new year's offers – no doubt for people regretting the extra slice of Christmas cake or the third box of biscuits – mea maxima culpa!

But the main reason the gyms are so keen to get people in with their 2019 gym membership is that it’s an absolute moneyspinner – their databases and tills are full of people who have signed up for a year’s membership only to drop out by Epiphany. 

We might feel similar to those would-be athletes when hearing the reading from Titus today. 

God’s grace has been revealed – great!

And it has made salvation possible for the whole human race – fantastic, let me at it!

And taught us that what we have to do is.. – come on, I’m ready for anything!

........is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and good and religious lives here in this present world.

Oh.

We might be forgiven for realising that we can’t possibly manage that on our own. The challenge is just too much. And we would be right – none of us are immune from those ambitions, and those temptations – whether that’s the temptation to swear at the driver of the car who just cut you up, or whether it’s to push in front of the person with the large full trolley at Sainsbury’s. We can try, and we might even succeed for a time – but we can’t get there all the time. It’s just too much for us.

But this is why John introduces us to baptism. Our efforts, the spiritual weightlifting, can’t be enough, and so baptism becomes the ritual that brings us into the presence of, and into a relationshop with, our Lord Jesus. That’s the secret ingredient that can make all the rest work.

St. Paul often describes the Christian life as a race. Baptism ensures that we finish that race – but it’s very easy to think that once we’ve been baptised we can take our eye off the finish line. We see this sometimes when baptism is seen as “something we do”, rather than the beginning of the Christian life and entry into the Church; or when confirmation is the last time that a child is seen in church. The end result of this is like finishing the race, but without scoring a good time or beating our personal best; like staggering across the line and collapsing immediately afterwards – rather than striding towards the finish, pulling the ribbon with us, and getting that gold medal. 

So once we’ve been baptised all the effort and striving begins again – but this time, we’re doing it for the right reason and in the right spirit. And that means that not only are we less likely to get tired out, but we’re more likely to see results, too.

And just like bodybuilders and gym fans, we also need to watch our diet – our spiritual diet. What do we take in? If you’re trying to get fit, you’ll want to avoid certain things – sugary snacks, and too much alcohol, and the like. We can learn from this, by avoiding the things that keep us away from Christ – gossip, and cruel humour. And of course there are things we should eat and drink! If you go to the gym you’ll see people with protein shakes and fruit smoothies – we can have a good spiritual diet by making sure we feed on the body and blood of Jesus – by coming to Mass. 

So this year, in 2019, let’s get our souls in shape.