Monday, September 12, 2005

My Daily Battle

Exercise two to three times a week. Eat light dinner and avoid salty, oily foods. I must have learned these golden rules when I was still in my pre-teens. Do I follow them?

I love to swim. I love to dance. I love taking walks. I love to play the piano. So how come in a given week, I spend more hours in front of the computer than in engaging in these activities?

I feed my soul but my body is not so well-taken care of. Times like these, I sound like St. Paul. In his letter to the Romans, he said:

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. " (Romans 7:15)

I have daily battles as well - against sin, laziness, selfishness, pride, and a host of other evils. Every morning I pray for the grace to live out a better day. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (v. 19)

St. Paul comforts me by saying that if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. (vv. 20-23, RSV, emphasis mine.)

It is a LAW then: try to do what's right and evil would come close at hand - to distract, discourage, and disappoint. To derail me from the path of good and to deprive me from the blessings in store for me. That's why going to prayer meetings, retreats, works of mercy, and other "good" activities could be so boring and lifeless sometimes, if I'm not wary and attuned to the spirit.

That's why I find I'm for these good works, because I have to contend with all the obstacles that are thrown my way. That's why I can't meet deadlines and I can't be there for all the service opportunities that I could be in. That's why I sing lyrics of songs even if I know that they're not upbuilding. For example, the French lyrics of Lady Marmalade... aargh! So I took French 10 and could attempt to pronounce them. I asked Fr Steve, my confessor who was in the same car when the song was playing, how come I still sing those songs sometimes, and he said simply, "It's the flesh".

The flesh. I know theologians have written volumes about it. I'm here to reflect on my own battles against it. It's the reason why I've never visited the lolos and lolas at Anawim, even if all my friends have gone there at one or many points in their lives. That's why I don't help the poor as much as my conscience tells me to - convenience still plays a major factor in this. That's why I have struggles about being poor, unknown and insignificant, even though they are all part of my present call, which I'm supposed to have embraced almost a year ago already. Yet in my inmost self, I know my God would delight in me if I do all those things. Be patient with me Lord, and teach me to be patient with myself as well.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (vv. 24-25, RSV)

St. Paul says it so clearly! He must know how I feel. He's a saint but very much a human being. He has a thorn in the flesh which he asked the Lord to remove three times, but which remained with him. I could relate so much with that!

Thankfully there's a truth in Scripture: It is through Jesus Christ that I could conquer the law of sin that my flesh wishes to serve. In his other letter, this time to the Ephesians, St. Paul wrote:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

And he instructs us on how to fight the good fight:

Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;

besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (vv. 13-18)

This is one of my favorite verses. The armor of God could cover me from head to toe, from my mind to my heart to my soul. Mother Nadine wrote a whole book on this, "God's Armor". This is a battle I am not meant to fight on my own. He has equipped me, and I serve a victorious King, so guess what, I shouldn't be worried.

Whether or not the evil in my life is obvious, I have only to remind myself of Scripture. It is hard to do good, to be good. It is hard to receive, to give, and to be love. I cannot do this perfectly in my lifetime, and people close to me would agree that I don't even come close to a passing grade, but I am called to do it faithfully.

I know all of you out there also want to triumph over your battles. Jesus wants us to be on His side, the winning side. Let's keep running. Hmm in my case, I would rather be walking, swimming or dancing. The Lord waits for those of us who walk slowly. Ain't that grand.

Tell me how you're doing. It's probably not as bad as you think. We're in this together.

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