Stephen is a fourth year student for the priesthood studying at St Mary's College Oscott.
Am I fit for heaven?
Having a bit of spare time when on placement in Ansdell, I decided to go for a bike ride down the seafront to Blackpool tower, it was a grey wet and rainy day but as the parish is very busy I decided to take the opportunity to get out for a ride whilst I could.
The journey down towards Blackpool was great, the miles sped away, the bike gliding effortlessly through the puddles on the road. This is great I thought, I’m making excellent time! I must be getting fitter. It was only when I arrived at the Tower and turned around to head back to Ansdell that the wind and rain hit me full in the face. On the journey down the wind was on my back pushing me towards Blackpool, but on the return journey I was cycling right into the gale force wind. Driving rain drenched me and every mile seemed a hard slog the relentless force of the wind pushing me back. On the way back to the church whilst battling the wind this scene played out in my imagination.
I had died and I met St Peter.
St Peter: Hello Stephen, welcome, I’m here to guide you to the gates of heaven
Stephen: Wow! “Hello St Peter, am I dead? What do I need to do? Where do I go?”
St Peter: Yes Stephen your Heavenly Father has called you home. Can you see this big hill, the gates of heaven are right at the top, here is a bike for you to ride there. Only I must warn you! It’s very steep and slippery, don’t fall off or stop or you’ll slide back down the hill and fall into the ravine at the bottom of the hill.
Stephen: Oh my! What happens if I fall into the ravine?
St Peter: you don’t want to do that Stephen, over the cliff is Hell, nasty place that! You don’t want to go there! Once there, there’s is no way back!
St Peter: Don’t worry Stephen, I’m sure you are fit enough for the trip to heaven, I’m sure your journey in life gave you plenty of opportunity to exercise.
It seemed to me a great analogy of our Christian journey in life. It’s easy to glide along in our world embracing its worldly ways of individualism self-centeredness and apathy, paying heed to its message that I need to look after myself and my own, and don’t care about anyone else, don’t bother about injustice, hate, pain and suffering, I’m alright Jack and that’s all that counts. It’s only when we turn and try to live our Christian values that we are fighting against the evil wind of the world, every step a struggle to live the Good News, the world trying to drive us back to its own ways.
It struck me that in this life we need to get fit for heaven. To use the cycling analogy, when we cycle downhill there is no struggle, it’s easy, and we don’t need to put any effort in. But if we want to get fit we need to cycle uphill! It’s harder, we need to exert a lot of effort, the benefit being that we get fitter and it’s easier to climb the hill next time.
It’s the same in our spiritual life, our Christian life, if we don’t put in the effort we won’t increase in spiritual fitness. So then how do we get spiritually fit? Observing the precepts of the Catholic faith as laid out in the catechism of the Catholic Church are a good start.
1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and Holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour.
2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the church.
5. You shall help provide for the needs of the church.
These precepts are the very basic necessities that as Catholics we must observe, this is the exercise routine that put us on the path to spiritual fitness. But the real way to grow in spiritual fitness is by living Christ’s teachings and growing in relationship with our creator. If we aren’t being challenged by our faith we probably aren’t paying attention and living it. The Christian ideal is not an easy option by worldly standards, but living and being true to our faith is the only way to get fit for heaven. So when our time comes for us to go home to our creator lets pray that we are fit enough to make that final journey.
St Sebastian, Pray for us