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Foster or Fester

FOSTER OR FESTER

 One angle we might take on today’s Gospel of the parable of the talents is that the spiritual life of the Christian either grows or it stagnates. Either we foster its growth or it will fester. When I speak of the “spiritual life”, I refer more broadly to the Christian’s life of faith which includes worship, prayer and morality in all its dimensions (carrying out my vocation in life, obeying the commandments, informing my conscience, cultivating virtue). All of these form an organic whole. Each influences the other for better or for worse. Stagnation in one will lead to stagnation in all; growth in one to growth in all.

Now, no-one is denying that working on your spiritual life as just explained is difficult. Then again, no-one ever said it would be easy. Christ himself points to the carrying of the Cross as the path of discipleship. He also admonishes us to sit down and work out carefully whether or not we have the wherewithal to complete the task of following him. He refers to that completion as giving up all your possessions, in the sense of being detached from everything to put him in first place and to use and engage with “possessions” (including family!) from within our superior relationship with him.

It concerns me that many Christians, including Catholic Christians, seem to make no real effort to foster their spiritual lives. There are two main temptations here. One is what is called minimalism: I just to the bare minimum of what is asked, nay, demanded of me by the Lord, and I make myself the dubious judge of what that minimum is. The other temptation is apathy or indifference or sloth (also called acedia). Sloth is masked by slogans such as, “I’m fine as I am” or “God will forgive me.” We emit judgments about ourselves that only God can make (am I really fine as I am in God’s sight?) or we presume to know what God will do (will he forgive me if I have not bothered about him during my life?), and all of this to justify …. doing nothing.

As with everything else of any worth in life, unless we put in the time and the effort, unless we develop a plan and keep to it, unless we are prepared to make sacrifices and take courageous decisions, then our spiritual life in all its manifestations will simply fester. The very resistance to making a move in the right direction, and all the attendant excuses that go with it, is a frightening sign that stagnation has already set in. We are already in the process of burying our talent in a hole. Let’s not let that happen! Let’s pull ourselves together! Let’s seek out help from heaven and from earth! Let’s turn this thing around and give ourselves a shake and realise what wealth and opportunity are ours! For our own sake, if not for Christ’s, let’s foster, not fester!

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