The following article was published on Catholic Exchange in early February.
At the beginning of each year, many of us make resolutions toward become a better person. We resolve to develop a healthier diet. We resolve to learn more about an important topic or two. Our intentions are good.
In the first days and weeks of the year, we do fairly well at keeping these resolutions. We join a fitness club. We cease eating at fast food establishments, or partaking of a second slice of cake for dessert. Perhaps we read a whole book during January, one without pictures even. Yet, when January turns to February, many of us forget our resolutions, or we begin to look for ways to get out of them (yours, truly, at the front of the line!). After all, working out and reading are hard, and fast food is so prevalent and tempting.
We have come to live in a fast-food and sound-bite culture. There are many ways that our habits in dining and learning reflect our spiritual habits. Yes, many people really do expect to cultivate healthy bodies without inordinate amounts of exercise; many people turn up their noses at having to read more than a few hundred words; and, finally, people really do expect spiritual health and growth with quick, small bites of faith formation. For example, the extent of most Catholics’ faith formation each week comes solely from the homily they hear at Mass. Given that most homilies last somewhere between ten and twelve minutes, that means most people do not spend more than one-one thousandth of their time cultivating their faith. Even if it’s a great homily, that’s no way to cultivate a deep relationship with Jesus. That is as bad as relying on sound bites for education, or on fast food for a diet.
It is truly unfortunate that so many think they can cultivate deep spirituality by way of distracted worship rituals, quickly-recited rote prayers, and commercial bookstore “spirituality” texts. They seem to believe (remember, actions always identify a person’s beliefs) that the religious and spiritual life operates in exactly the same way as buying a lunch or a latte; or that a half-hour documentary on the Discovery Channel contains all that needs to be said about followers of Jesus. We need to realize that we are not living up to the potential that God has placed in us if we are simply parroting what we hear on news broadcasts and podcasts. To counter this trend, we must begin making every effort to convince people that there is more, and that they must make a greater effort.