I'd like to be an Olympic Gold Medalist. The only problem is that I only want to have one. I don't want to earn one. I don't want to get up every morning, train, fail, train, fail, train, fail, work hard, be patient, sacrifice, grow slowly, and work for it. I just want to be an Olympic Gold Medalist, not do the work that is required to become one. Alas, my Olympic dreams will probably come to naught.
Today in the Gospel, a question is put to Jesus. "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" Jesus does not answer with a "yes or no," but he does say that we should "strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough." Every so often, a poll comes out asking people if they think that they are going to heaven. Basically, everybody thinks that they are going to heaven. Even people who don't believe in God think that they are going to heaven! I think we all want to have eternal life. We all want to be given the prize of eternal beatitude. But, are we striving for it?
Imagine someone walking into the Olympic Arena and saying, "Hey, practically every week, I drag myself to the gym and spend almost an hour there. I'm here to pick up my Gold Medal." That's not how you win a Gold Medal. Similarly, the spiritual life requires that we strive. The spiritual life is a training for the ultimate prize. It demands hard work, sacrifice, effort, and resilience. When we are knocked down, when we get lazy, when we flat out fail, it demands that we not quit. This training is a full time job. It requires that we see our whole life--in all of its aspects--as our training. There is no, "I have my spiritual life over here and my professional life over here." There is no, "Personally, I'm a Christian, but when I get elected to office, I shut off my Christian beliefs." There is no, "I'm a Christian except on Saturday nights." Every aspect of our life is our spiritual gymnasium.
Honestly, we live at a moment in time where we've probably all become a bit spiritually flabby. I mean when we think going to Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation is an enormous requirement, we're flabby. Haven't been to confession in the past month or so? Flabby. Not praying every morning and evening? Flabby. Are we striving to be chaste, humble, charitable? If not . . . yup, flabby. Do we really try to forgive our enemies? No? Flabby. Are we serious about being generous to the works of the Church or do we think that we can just throw in a token donation now and again? If we are not being truly generous to the works of the Church . . . flabby.
Do you stop by a Church occasionally just to spend a few moments with the Lord? Do you intersperse your day with small prayers? Do you read the Scriptures, have devotion to some saints, visit the sick, attempt to curb your gossip, and talk about your Faith with others? If not, flabby.
We are not alone in our striving. We train together. One of the best ways to train for eternal life is to have teammates who are striving for the same prize. They encourage us, challenge us, pick us up when we have fallen, and help us to keep our eyes fixed on the prize. They help us to STRIVE.
Today, Jesus tells us to strive. He gives us everything we need to complete the course and win the victory. After all, the victory is ultimately his! So often, when we fail in the spiritual life, we allow ourselves to spiral out of control and give up. Nobody wins the prize by giving up. We win by allowing Christ to pick us back up and getting back into training.
Have you grown spiritually flabby? Few of us, I think, would claim otherwise. Then let today be Training Day Number One. The days of flabbiness are over. Let's accept the Grace of Jesus Christ and strive!