Man finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good” – Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1704.
All of us have goals in life and we work hard to achieve them, trying to avoid bad habits. There’s no better time for a re-set than Lent – a call from Holy Mother Church to slow down, to examine ourselves and our relationship to God, to look honestly at our bad habits and unhealthy attachments.
The following video shows the theory of Charles Duhigg, which explains how habits work and how we can apply this theory to our life, especially during Lent.
Two interesting points: First, we live in a world where all of us are seeking happiness and freedom; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition. Most of us want to grow in virtues in order to be better people , either to achieve particular goals or to avoid suffering. As human beings, we are always seeking for more, so we work hard to accomplish what we desire. However, as Christians we know that the greatest desire of our hearts is to become like Christ himself. “Our heart is restless, until it rests in you”, Saint Augustine.
But a true disciple doesn’t simply imitate, he or she seeks to acquire the very heart of the master.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5:48.
Not a perfection based on common stereotypes or robotic imitation, but personal perfection, like the one a son has in desiring to be like his Father, a perfection in love.. God has adopted us as sons, and we must, in our lives , conform ourselves to the father. In fact, God has given us Jesus, who is the perfect model of how we are meant to be; Jesus, who himself took on human form, in all his divinity, to provide us with a tangible, achievable model of perfection.
The fact is that human beings desire happiness and the fulfillment of all desire, but only with the grace of God is this possible. Therefore, if we want to grow in Christian virtue, we are dependent on receiving the grace of Christ. It’s not something that we just do on our own; we must ask for Christ’s help to achieve holiness. So, when we are trying to break a bad habit (or grow in a particular virtue), the question we must pose to ourselves is, am I asking constantly for the grace of Jesus Christ?
A second point we can draw from the video is that it is, indeed, very hard to overcome a bad habit. “No matter how I try, I seem to slip back to the same old routines again and again.” Oftentimes when we are trying to break a bad habit or gain a virtue it can seem impossible, even despite our sincerest efforts. Yes! Because, in our littleness in comparison with God’s magnificence, we sound ridiculous if we presume that it’s entirely in our own hands. Just like a kid who tries to fix his toy car without his dad’s help, we are trying to gain a Christian virtue without going to the very source of Christian virtue Himself!
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Growing in a Christian virtue is not the same as doing your best on your job or classes. It is requires a different sort of effort, maybe not easy, but actually not complicated. It means that you will need to make efforts and sacrifices, but God’s help is going to be with you: “Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” – Matthew 11:30. The purpose of the yoke is to closely unite two parts, making them share the same path and the same destination. In the same way, God is with you, sharing in all your struggles, accompanying you in whatever is hard for you to overcome.
Here are some steps that you can take if you want to gain a Christian virtue.
1. Start Asking
Christ says to us “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7. The first virtue that you will be gaining is meekness, humility and simplicity of heart. So, start praying and you will see that things become better and better. Believe in his power, in his omnipotence. The encounter with God transforms us!
2. Start moving forward
Make a concrete plan for how you can gain a virtue. In a healthy way, be ambitious! In the same way you prepare a study guide for an exam or a new strategy in your work, you need to think about which strategies to adopt for this spiritual goal. Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
3. Learn from your mistakes
Remember, if you make a mistake or slip up along the way, analyze what factors caused you to stumble. As humans, we’re tiny and we fail, but “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” – Romans 5:20. Additionally, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and start again… for God’s forgiveness surpasses any sin by infinite proportion. Furthermore, our sins can’t be compared to the unceasing, limitless love with which the Lord Jesus redeems us on the Cross.
Remember, God never abandons us, and he is the one who makes all our efforts fruitful with his grace. No matter how much you desire to fulfill your desires, first ask God. Also, never forget to pray to Holy Mary… she will stand right next to you, too.