It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, only to break them within the first couple of weeks (or months). Most Americans will resolve, once again, to lose weight and be healthier. They will join gyms or exercise groups. They will buy healthy cookbooks. They will throw out the cookies, cakes, and potato chips.
As Christians, it is a good and noble deed to take care of our bodies since we, as Catholics, receive the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. It is, however, of no benefit to us if we care for our physical bodies but neglect to lose spiritual weight that drags us down and makes for an unhealthy spiritual life. When we do not care for our bodies, we begin to increase more weight as the months and years go by, we become tired easier, experience illnesses and diseases, and simply have a decreased quality of life. The same is true when we neglect our spiritual life and do not eliminate the weight and unhealthy things that decrease our spiritual quality of life. Let’s look at the best ways to not only lose physical weight, but the same concepts will help enable you to eliminate that spiritual weight that’s pulling you down as well.
1.) Cut the fat: It’s so easy to grab a hamburger from your favorite fast-food restaurant and “up size” that order of fries and soda. It seems as if there are very few fast-food places that offer you healthy salads or healthy choices. The entire menu is full of carbs, calories, grease, and fat. Grabbing unhealthy snacks, such as potato chips or your favorite soda, becomes more of a habit over time than a conscious choice. We make the choice without even thinking about it very much. The same is true for spiritual fat. Many of our sins are habits rather than conscious choice. Perhaps watching pornography online is a habit now, after several years, as opposed to making an intentional choice. Has that habitual sin you struggle with become a habit or an addiction and not a conscious choice? The sins we commit are spiritual fat that weigh us down. We eliminate that fat by frequently going to Reconciliation, praying, and becoming more intentional about noticing our actions each day. By doing a nightly examination of conscience, we can review our actions (and inactions) in order to free us from that fat in our life. It’s unhealthy habits, like junk food, that weigh us down. It’s the sins we commit, without repenting, that pile up and add increased weight to us daily.
“Pay attention carefully. After the sin comes the shame; courage follows repentance. Did you pay attention to what I said? Satan upsets the order; he gives the courage to sin and the shame to repentance” – St. John Chrysostom
2.) Increase the good: When we remove something from our life, such as an unhealthy food from our diet, we should replace it with something good and wholesome. For example, when I took out my favorite soda from my diet in order to lose weight, I still had to have something to drink. I found healthier options such as water and tonic drinks that I enjoy. The same is true of our spiritual life. When we remove a sin from our daily habits, we should replace it with something that points us back to the Lord. If we stop watching pornography, then we can replace it with praying and reading Scripture. If we eliminate gossip from our lips throughout the day, then we can replace it with telling others about the Christ or just speaking positive of others around us rather.
“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible” -St. Francis of Assisi
We begin by reading a chapter of Scripture a day. Then, soon, we find we can read two or three chapters a day. You can begin by praying a rosary in the mornings. After a consistent routine of praying the rosary, you may find you can pray a 10- or 15-decade rosary throughout the day. You may begin by going to Adoration for 15 minutes a day, which can lead to an hour, and then longer. Just as with a weight loss diet, you begin with small steps and those small steps, as St. Francis reminds us, leads us to greater things.
3.) Be intentional: You cannot lose weight if you simply ignore what you are putting on your plate or in your mouth. The mindless “snacking” or “taste testing” can be a killer to any diet. If you are to lose weight, you must be intentional about what you are putting on your plate and how much. The same is true of our spiritual life. You must be intentional about how much good you are putting on your daily plate as opposed to have much bad. The portion of good should greatly outweigh the bad and then, soon, you will find there is almost no bad on the plate at all. As we continue to fill our daily routine with the things of the Lord, it leaves little room for the things of Satan. If we fill our days with prayer, acts of charity, Scripture reading, and works of mercy then there is little time for sin to creep in on the plate.
4.) Be motivated: I cannot tell you how many times throughout the years I said, “I need to lose weight” and I would create a plan for the “new year”, and it never happened. The motivation was not there. I could not see the purpose in going through all of that just to get to a result I really was not motivated enough to want to achieve. I enjoyed my junk food, fried chicken, Mountain Dew, bread and pasta. However, I went through a health battle that woke me up to my mindless eating and not caring for my body. I soon realized there were things I did not have control over but there were things I did, and my weight was one thing I had control over and there began the journey. This time was different. This time I was motivated to fight. I was motivated to win. The same is true with our spiritual lives. If we do not see the end result as obtainable or something worth fighting for then we typically will fall off the cliff and never reach the end. We will not achieve the results we are looking for because we did not put in the effort, time, sacrifice, and were not motivated to do it. We must always fix our eyes on heaven. We must remember this life is not permanent. If we have learned anything from COVID and what this world has gone through the last two years, we have been reminded that we are all susceptible to death. Death is a reality. Death is a truth that cannot be discounted. Life after death is Truth. If we stay focused on the end result, eternal life with the Lord Jesus, then our motivation has a strong foundation. A motivation rooted on an unshakeable foundation will lead to the victory and outcome you are desiring.
This new year let’s seek to lose the weight. Let’s all get on a spiritual diet. It’s time to shed those pounds. Happy New Year and to God be the glory.