February 27, 2007: Tuesday of the First Week of Lent


The Scripture reading from Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of Hours tells us:

“My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?”

What did the author mean by the word or words translated into the English word ‘practice’? The later verses from the reading speak of charity in such a way as to tell us the author meant something like habit or custom. He wished his fellow-Christians to actually give alms and offer assistance of other sorts.

But athletes practice in a different way: they systematically work on their skills for fielding ground balls or for placing their feet in exactly the right position as they round the corner in a race. Maybe we Christians should adopt a slightly different but similar attitude to that of serious athletes? Maybe we should make a deliberate effort every day, not just during Lent, to give alms to those who need what we have, to give time in prayer to God, to discipline ourselves in ways that might make us more Christ-like?

In fact, modern brain-science supports the idea that, by regular use, we reinforce and strengthen brain pathways, pathways of thought and feeling. If we wish to be God-centered human beings, if we wish to love our neighbors, then we should actively try to do what’s right even when we don’t feel like doing anything at all. That’s when we’ll be winning the race to salvation, when we pray to God though we feel unloved by Him, when we help our neighbor and even smile at him though we don’t feel like loving anyone, when we live with what we need and don’t seek to satisfy excessive desires.

When my histamines are out of balance, I can get into a black mood, suspecting others and feeling there is something wrong with others. Though that is a biological constraint, and likely a constrain on others since histamines have powerful effects on the brain, I’ve found I can greatly mitigate the rotten feelings by simply pretending I feel good, starting with a proper prayer of thanksgiving to God. At those times I can be surprised by joy. I’m ready to at least act decently towards others, though I can’ say that I always smile. I’m ready to accept what God provides. Someday, I might even overcome those rotten feelings enough that I can love God and love my neighbor all the time and even feel happy with satisfying my simple and basic needs.

But it takes practice.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Moral Formation, Peace of Christ, Religion

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