Jesus answered: ‘Will you lay down your life for me?’ - John 13:38

Support the Holy Father and pray with him!

"Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world!"

-Pope Benedict XVI

Pray for Pope Benedict's prayer intentions for this month. Find out more here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Sportive Struggle

As of this writing, I have just finished a short self-initiated (inflicted) workout in the privacy of my room. It's actually a big accomplishment for me, embarassing it is to admit.
It has been almost two months since I started working (and consequently, my sedentary lifestyle), and I have not concerned myself with physical exercise for much longer than that. It's funny how a mere twenty minutes of stretches, push-ups, crunches, jumps, and kicks can seem like an eternity to someone who has not really exercised for a long time. My muscles were resisting, and I felt quite itchy and uncomfortable afterward.

Meanwhile, young athletes from all over the world have flocked to Singapore for the first ever Youth Olympic Games. I'm pretty sure all of these youths have spent countless hours in disciplined training and body conditioning to be able to represent their countries in their respective sports. I'm thinking they must have spent at least four hours a day training. And they're, like, at least five years younger than me.


Anyway, the key thing I wanted to write about is the value of sportive struggle, especially in the spiritual life. I'm no expert on this, and this is by no means an original idea (in fact I have to give credit to Opus Dei circles for most of these points), but recently I have come to see through my experiences (like physical exercise, for instance) how similar our spiritual journey can be to athletic discipline. Cliche as it may sound, it's true that there is no growth without struggle. We need to experience hardships and trials and overcome them to realize our inner potentials. Life would be stagnant, not to mention boring, if it didn't present any obstacle for us to overcome. I think there could be no true achievement without struggle.

As Christians, we strive to live out our faith and pursue the universal vocation to holiness in whatever role we have - student, professional, son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, and many others. Anyone who has been taking his/her Christian life seriously knows that it demands sacrifices and struggles many many times in the course of a day - against the lure of procrastination, against working with half-hearted effort, against the rationalization of sin, against gossiping, laziness, indifference, pride, mediocrity. This is similar to what a person who wants to lose weight and get fit has to do - he/she would need to stick firmly to an established exercise regime, not to mention a rather simplified diet, for at least several weeks to get results. It means foregoing fast food, ice cream, sweets, soft drinks, and many other good food in order to achieve his/her physical goal.

I believe this concept of self-denial is especially challenging to us who are living in today's secular and relativistic world where everything is centered on the self. However, just like how all athletes train themselves regularly and continually, so too must we struggle and prevail over these obstacles in order to grow in virtue and to strengthen our resistance against our inclination to sin. It is by no means easy to engage in continual struggle, and though we fail at times, it is even more important to be able to begin again and again. Come to think about it, the saints are people who did fall, but had been able to struggle to get up every time.

In addition, dealing with our personal struggles is a way of translating our supernatural life into action. Desiring to be good is not good enough - it must flow into our daily lives and influence our decisions, our behavior, how we treat other people.

Some of the things that can help facilitate our struggle are the examination of conscience and the acquisition of virtues. We are able to know our weak points through regular examination of conscience and thus focus on overcoming them. Meanwhile, developing good habits (by actually doing them) leads us to grow in virture and makes it more natural and easy for us to live a Christian life.

Perhaps one thing that can help sustain us in our sportive struggle is to see it positively, keeping in mind that whenever we say "no" to ourselves, we say "yes" to God, just like Mary. Also, given this outlook, we are able to face our obstacles with cheerfulness because we know that Our Lord and Our Queen are in the battle with us.

No comments: