I imagine many people made New Years resolutions. Probably many have already failed to keep them. If you have made it this far – congratulations! You are doing a good job.
One of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight or get in shape. If we made such a resolution and sought a personal trainer for help, what they are most likely going to do is give us a plan for exercise and diet – On Tues and Thursday we will do resistance exercises, on Mon, Wed, Friday cardio. For lunch you can eat this – for breakfast this. On Saturday you can have a treat. If you stick with the plan, most likely over time you will loose weight and improve your overall health.
In our Gospel, Jesus has discipline and a plan. Jesus gets up early in the morning finds a quiet place and prays. We hear this many times in the Gospel – normally we don’t just spontaneously wake up early – this is a discipline, a deliberate choice of Jesus. When the disciples tell him that people are looking for him, he says that he must move to the next town. He has a clear plan of what he ought to do and he sticks to the plan.
We have been learning about many wonderful spiritual practices – however, these practices will only bear fruit if they are practiced and a real way of putting them in practice is through a spiritual plan of life. What might such a spiritual plan look like?
- Everyday when I wake up I spend 20 minutes to read the scriptures and meditate on them
- At noon I will say the angelus.
- After dinner we will pray the Rosary as a family.
- Before going to bed I will read a spiritual book.
- Every Friday I will fast in the afternoon.
- Every Month I will go to confession.
We will put some other examples on the Parish website. Obviously this must be adapted to the needs and circumstances of each person – it is your plan. What is the benefit of a spiritual plan of life?
- It helps us form habits. A list of these spiritual practices may seem overwhelming. The reality is that if we are faithful every day, these practices will become easier because we will form habit or routine – they just become part of our life.
- It helps us overcome our whims. Without a plan we will pray when we feel like it and not pray when we don’t. Some will argue that having such a structure limits the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now there will be times we must be flexible – however if we simply leave things up to the “spirit” often the spirit we will follow is not the Holy spirit but our own spirit – our moods and our whims. This is not a good foundation for the spiritual life.
- It helps us fight procrastination – It is easy to say It’s been awhile since my last confession, I should go soon, but today I’m not really ready, I’ll do it next week. Next week comes then it is the week after. If my plan says I go to confession every month and it’s been a month – now I go – if I’m not ready – I get ready.
- Progress is made gradually by consistent repetition. If you started at the gym at the beginning of January you likely did not see much change in the first week or two – but now after five or six weeks you should. And if you want that change to be permanent you have to keep the same routine each week. If you give up, most likely you will return to your former state. Growth in the spiritual life is similar – it is about persevering in simple spiritual exercises each and every day. It is much more fruitful to be say the rosary every day for several months that to say all twenty decades in a moment of inspiration. Having a spiritual plan helps us to make real and steady progress.
Lent is coming in less than two weeks. In this next week think of a spiritual plan that is right for you. If you aren’t sure ask in confession for some advice. Let’s see if we can put that into practice during the Lenten season.