For the past 11 months, all of us have become much more health conscious. We do all we can to remain healthy and to avoid being infected with COVID-19.
We maintain a social distance. We wash our hands and sanitize surfaces. We wear face coverings. We stay away from crowds and limit social gatherings. We work from home when possible.
In addition, we personally assess our health. We check to see if we have any symptoms that might indicate that we are infected, such as a cough, body aches or a loss of taste.
We also employ certain devices that help us evaluate our health. We use thermometers to test for fever; pulse oximeters to check our heart rate and blood oxygen levels; pressure monitors to determine our blood pressure; and scales to reveal fluctuations in weight.
By doing those things and using those devices, we get an idea of the status of our physical health.
Checking on our spiritual health is not so easy. There are no thermometers that can reveal if we have a warm or cold heart for God. No pulse oximeters that can tell us the level of holiness in our lives. No pressure monitors that can indicate how much influence evil is exerting on our decisions. No scales that can tell us if we are weighed down by selfishness and sin.
Checking the status of our spiritual health requires we make a personal examination of our lives. This season of Lent, which began Ash Wednesday, is the time in the Church’s calendar for such a spiritual wellness exam.
We often associate Lent with doing penance, giving up certain foods or activities, saying extra prayers, and so on. Those are certainly wonderful practices, but Lent should also be a time for reflection, a time for us to take a good look at our lives.
When Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:12-15) tells us that “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days,” it was not to do penance. Jesus was without sin. In the desert, Jesus reflected on his coming ministry and he rejected every temptation to be unfaithful to what God the Father expected of him.
Our Lenten self-assessment of our spiritual health might include asking ourselves the following questions:
Am I closer to God this Lent than I was last year, or does God have a diminished role in my thoughts and decisions?
Am I living as the child of God and faithful member of the Church that I promised to be when I renewed my baptismal promises last Easter?
How many minutes a week am I giving to prayer, to Mass, to the reading of scripture, and to the things of God, compared to the hours I give to streaming services, videogames, and social media?
How much of my money goes to satisfying my needs and to accumulating “stuff” I do not need, and how much goes into the collection basket and to charitable organizations?
Do I allow the sinful and immoral behaviors endorsed by society to infect my mind and to influence my decisions and actions?
During these months of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all learned the importance of checking our physical health. This Lent, may we better appreciate the importance of evaluating our spiritual health. For as Jesus tells us, only the spiritually healthy will see God. As he puts it, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski