Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of keeping our spiritual fuel tanks full in order to better weather the storms of life. I touched on one way that God had planned to help us do this by asking us to really and regularly observe the Third Commandment, that is to "Keep holy the Sabbath". But there are those weeks when the road from one Sunday to the next is a lot longer and bumpier than usual. Unexpected U-turns in relationships, traffic jams in projects at work or home, or bizarre detours thrown in the path of normal life can have us running on spiritual fumes before the middle of the week. Then what? How can we refuel in the middle of our always-in-overdrive daily lives?
Jesus provided a plan and a pattern for us to do this when he took the Ten Commandments and summarized them into the Two Greatest Commandments in Mark 12:29-31:
One of the teachers of the law came and… he asked Him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
Really and regularly keeping holy the Sabbath surely falls under the first of the Greatest Commandments, so I'd like to explore how we can stay tanked up on spiritual fuel by following the pattern of the second of the Greatest Commandments. I can think of three major ways to love neighbor and self, and thereby stay tanked up on faith between Sundays: daily prayer, daily or weekly scripture reading/study, and service to those in need.
1) Like the sacrifices we might need to make to truly observe the Sabbath, making time for meaningful, daily prayer might cost us a little more than a quick prayer before meals. Don't forget, I'm talking about having enough faith on reserve for the demands of co-workers, in-laws, bounced checks, and calls from the principal's office. Setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier for uninterrupted time to pray before being swept into the day's activities might be a good place to start. Reading a devotional guide like the Magnificat or Our Daily Bread, or setting Catholic Exchange as our home page makes this a lot easier. Going to daily Mass and saying a Rosary while commuting to work are two more ideas.
2) Regular study of Holy Scripture is the second way I'd recommend to guard against running out of spiritual gas mid-week. Most parishes offer weekly Bible study groups or RENEW groups. If your parish does not or if you can't attend for some reason, you can purchase Bible study guides through a number of good Catholic publishers. Look for Bible study guides written by Scott Hahn and published by Ignatius Press. The Liturgical Press has very nice study guides for nearly every book of the Bible in its "Little Rock Scripture Study" series. [And look for great new Bible study opportunities coming all this year from Catholic Exchange beginning with our Woman's Study this month.]
3) Loving one's neighbor does not have to be a drain on our spiritual energy level. Loving one's neighbor does not have to be a matter of finding the time to join a group or the money to support a service project. It's a matter of living the spiritual truth of which St. Francis spoke: "It is in giving that we receive". The neighbors I most regularly serve are those who live in the bedrooms just down the stairs from mine. It is my service to these dependent, little neighbors that both drains and refuels me as a full-time mother. By regularly and lovingly putting myself at the service of my children, I am teaching them to do the same for the neighbors who live down the street, over the bridge, across the country, and around the world. To receive a spiritual boost mid-week, we can give love to the needy in our own homes. We can also serve our parish families in many large and small ways.
Refueling on faith between Sunday Masses isn't as impossible or as imposing as it may seem; we just need to choose our "grade of fuel" and commit to staying tanked up.