In 1 Timothy, Saint Paul offers some good and holy advice. While there’s a lot that can be unpacked from this short, rich text, I’d like to share one line that I received particularly well since it’s a theme I try to reflect on this blog pretty often.
1 Timothy 4:6-10
If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Living a life rooted in Christ Jesus is not easy (Mt 7:14), but when we “train [ourselves] in godliness” by seeking God through avoiding sin, frequent confession, prayer, avoiding ignorance of Scripture, reading books, and joyfully living out the Gospel we are strengthening a very real part of us. Our soul is like a muscle in that the more we feed it by practicing authentic Catholicism–as an athlete must regularly practice and exercise–the stronger it gets and better we become. The feeling after a serious spiritual exercise can be quite invigorating!
More importantly than a satisfying feeling of strength, Paul points out that living this not-so-easy Christian makes not just improving our chances of making it to heaven, but all aspects of our earthly life better. When people practice an authentic Catholic life, constantly seeking to make the right choices even when it’s difficult (CS Lewis compares this to a screw being turned clockwise with every virtuous choice and counter-clockwise for every bad choice), they naturally make their situations on earth more favorable not only for themselves but also for the people around them. This reality reflects that Church teachings are indeed rooted in an objective truth that permeates space-time all the way from the heavens right into our intimate sphere of daily life. In short, a virtuous life with a focus on our spiritual essence, will likely result in better physical, emotional, and even economic health!
In contrast, today’s culture places a strict emphasis on physical health while ignoring the health associated with the spiritual fortitude required to live in accordance to natural law. I’d submit that this is partly why in a culture that is more aware of exercise, food quality, and medicine than ever before in history, there seems to be unprecedented levels of disorder, confusion, and anguish than humans have experienced in many generations. What good is an era of unprecedented access to scientific facts satisfying our justified curiosity in the how of life if we cannot prescribe this wealth of knowledge to the why of life.
“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.”
– G.K. Chesterton
While on the subject of this epistle, I’ll bring up another tidbit worth mulling over for Catholics. Speaking on the purpose of the Church in the world, 1 Timothy 3:15:
…you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.