It occurred to me recently how often I push a button, flip a switch, or click an icon to navigate everyday life. It’s become very automatic, mindless even, to push, flip or click – to turn off the alarm, open and close lights, adjust the heat, turn on the TV, surf channels, awaken the computer, engage the smart phone, browse the internet, check emails, brew coffee, pop the toaster, use the microwave, open the garage doors, and start the car. And that’s all before 9:00 a.m. It’s a pattern that lasts throughout the day.
Contemporary life is such that we’ve become very dependent on, even addicted to, technology and gadgets to accomplish lots of little tasks. And you know what happens when, on occasion, one of them fails us and doesn’t work: our routine is disrupted and unholy thoughts, unseemly language, and irritation quickly follow. And for those of us who are determined to be organized, on schedule and in control, it’s catastrophic!
Unfortunately, making progress in the spiritual life isn’t quite as easy as managing everyday life. True growth in holiness doesn’t come at the push of a button, a flip of a switch, or the click of an icon. There’s no easy way to overcome sin and grow in virtue. It’s a result of a determined and concentrated effort, and from lots of hard work.
What are the tools we use to grow in holiness? We pray, often and hard. We diligently read the holy scriptures, the Word of God. We make good use of the sacraments Christ gave us. We adopt a spiritual discipline that includes fasting and abstaining, and other acts of mortification. And sometimes we go out of our way to meet the needs of others in charity.
Thomas á Kempis, in the Imitation of Christ, often points to the struggles inherent in the virtuous life. In one passage, he points to the heroic example of the saints, and, in contrast, says to us: “How lukewarm and negligent we are! We lose our original fervor very quickly and we even become weary of life from laziness! Do not, you who have seen so many examples of the devout, fall asleep in the pursuit of virtue!” (Chapter 18)
“Do not fall asleep in the pursuit of virtue!” In the midst of our comfortable lives and predictable routines, the sage advice is well-taken.
Something to think about: Have you become too dependent on modern conveniences?