In the New Year, many people’s resolutions revolve around their desire to lead healthier lives. They may want to give up drinking or smoking or eating sweets. Others want to get to the gym more often or start going for walks or runs outside. There is an intrinsic recognition that to lead a better life, the foundation begins with health and order in our lifestyle.
The same phenomenon is true for our spiritual lives. If we want to change for the better, we’ve got to exercise our prayer life, frequent the sacraments, and implement good habits.
Josh Raymond welcomed Fr. Ethan Southard onto The Inner Life to discuss just what is necessary to become and stay spiritually fit in 2023.
In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s passing from this life, Fr. Ethan expressed his admiration for the example that Benedict set, before, during, and after his papacy. As Pope John Paul II’s right hand in the 1980s, Pope JPII referred to him as “Saintly”. Benedict must have been such a shining example of personal holiness and sanctity to have a future saint refer to him as “saintly”. And he maintained that until the end, as his last words on New Year’s Eve were, “Jesus, I love you.”
At the heart of Benedict’s holiness, and indeed all holiness, is supreme humility, Fr. Ethan pointed out. Even when serving under Pope JPII, Benedict longed to retire and spend his remaining days as a librarian, but at the request of the Pope, he remained active. And to go even further, he served the Church for 8 years as JPII’s successor. And, when the Holy Spirit called him away from the papacy, he had the humility to heed that calling and give up the mantle before his death.
Speaking on Benedict’s decision to resign in 2013, Josh said, “I think that leads into a very natural thing that we should do periodically in our own lives. And that is just an evaluation of our own spiritual life. And I’m not talking about a daily, regular examination of conscience. I mean that 30,000 foot look down at the entirety of where I am currently in my spiritual life; taking stock of, ‘Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I growing in my prayer life?’ Or maybe, ‘Are things stagnating?’”
This new year also offers a path into the Lenten season, an even greater opportunity to take stock of what our priorities are. One simple question we can ask ourselves as we prepare for the death and resurrection of Our Lord is, “What do I want most in life?” As Christians, we know the answer should be “To be with God in Heaven for eternity.” But is that really what we want? Are we allowing other things, even good things, in our life to usurp that desire?
And once you’ve discovered what it is that you’re allowing to overshadow your desire for Christ, the natural follow-up question makes itself apparent: “What am I willing to do, to give up, to reach Christ, to grow my relationship with Him, and to ultimately reach Him in heaven?”
Are you willing to give up your bad habits? Are you willing to cut off poisonous relationships? Are you willing to cut back on the good things that you excessively indulge in? Are you willing to put in the work and fortitude it takes to replace vice with virtue? Are you willing to endure pain? Suffering? Even death?
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