I'm a sucker for a good hamburger. The bigger and juicier the better. When I order one, I'm usually presented with a choice: fries or salad with that? My emotional heart leans toward the fries, but my physical one argues for the salad. Lately, my physical heart, buttressed by doctor's advice and a growing societal mania for healthy options, has been winning out, and the salad has assumed the upper hand. Sooner or later (I'm hoping for later) that same wise and prudent heart will convince me to avoid choosing the hamburger, too, although that will take some strong-arming, for sure.
Ah, choices. We face them daily, and we are paying increasing attention to which ones are healthy and which not. Most often the context of the choice is bodily health: what we choose to eat, whether we choose to exercise, the choices that determine the relative weight we give to work and leisure, and so on. The choices often are not easy, but with respect to our physical well-being we have many helps to encourage us: our doctors, the people who care for us, and broad societal support.
Yet what about our spiritual health? I have often thought that if we all devoted even a tenth of the energy to this that we dedicate to our physical health, we and our world would be revolutionized! Many of us will very willingly so order our day to get in an hour of exercise. What if, in addition and as our first priority, we set aside an hour to read and pray with Sacred Scripture? The satisfaction born of weight loss would soon pale in comparison to the joy that issues from growth in our relationship with Christ!
What supports are there for making this kind of "heart-healthy" choice? Admittedly, we cannot rely upon societal encouragement the way we can regarding good eating and healthy exercise. Societal messaging in our day would not support a life of genuine discipleship, to say the least! Yet there are many, much more reliable supports than that upon which we can trustingly rely.
First of all is the love and mercy of Jesus himself, who wants us to succeed and gives us the grace to make this possible, especially in the sacraments. There is also the prayer of Mary, our mother, and the communion of saints, who intercede for us constantly. Turn, too, to the teaching of the Church and to the witness of the many faithful disciples who choose daily to follow the Lord. No physical trainer could ever match this kind of support!
Sunday's reading from Sirach teaches that the Lord places before us a fundamental choice: good or evil. We choose the good when we opt to trust in God's wisdom and providence and to follow him faithfully. We choose evil when we opt to follow our own "wisdom" and consequently make lifestyle choices that run counter to the Gospel. Let us all pray for the grace we need to choose those "heart-healthy" options that strengthen our conversion of heart and favour growth in our relationship with Jesus Christ.