In our daily spiritual lives, moments of decision typically revolve around temptations. We’re trying to follow Christ and abide by His teachings and commands. Then we’re confronted with a situation in which we’re being lured subtly or overtly, whatever best suits Satan’s purposes at the time into doing what we know we shouldn’t do.
In these instances, the good choice obviously involves avoiding a negative, to not do the wrong thing. Yet, battling temptations rather than fleeing them suggests that part of us has already given in a little bit. I know that sometimes even after choosing not to sin I feel somewhat sullied and compromised, because my good choice wasn't as prompt and pure as it should have been.
I guess we can keep butting heads with temptations, flirting with how much we can get away with before we're actually sinning, but I'd like to suggest a way out of that mindset.
Instead of having the day's moral decisions dominated by choices to avoid temptations to sin, as though we're constantly navigating through a spiritual minefield, why not capitalize on moments of opportunity to grow in the love of God and neighbor? After all, the best defense is a good offense. The first moment of decision in a given day, and one in which quiet heroes are made, occurs the instant we awake. It's the decision literally to get out of bed. At that moment, we're comfortable, we might still be tired or not feel so great, and it would be easy to justify hitting the snooze button so we can sleep some more.
Certainly we're not talking here about a temptation to sin, and sometimes, because of illness or other factors, it's a very good decision to get a little more sleep.
However, our first waking moment gives us a chance unlike any others to put God first in word and action, to seize a moment of opportunity, to score a touchdown for our Lord on the opening kickoff. Then we have a certain spiritual momentum, and our day becomes characterized more by the good we are choosing rather than the evil we are avoiding.
I know what a blessing it has been to get up early with my kids to go to a morning Mass even before the first cup of coffee or breakfast (which we then enjoy and appreciate even more after Mass). But whether it's an act of the will to get up and pray, read Scripture, visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, or even go for a jog or walk, if it's a decision for the Lord, it's a great way to put Him first and proactively enter into the day.
Sometimes when I pass on my “heroic moment” so as to get a little more sleep, the day still goes okay. Other times, though, I feel as though I'm a half step behind all day, reacting to things rather than really living fully. However, I honestly can't recall ever having regretted getting up early for the Lord or having a day really “go south” when I put Him first.
As Scripture says, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and that we should instill this wisdom into our children as soon as they rise in the morning (Dt 6:4-7). Are the first words out of our mouth at the beginning of the day “All for you, Jesus” or “Just five more minutes”?
Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. is the president of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) and Emmaus Road Publishing and the editor-in-chief of Lay Witness magazine, all based in Steubenville, Ohio. He is a contributor to Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass and an adviser to CE’s Catholic Scripture Study. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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