Who can really disagree about importance of staying balanced? Living a balanced life promotes good mental and physical health. For example, I am diabetic. Once diagnosed, I read all that I could about this disease. I even took evening classes at Good Samaritan Hospital. I read about a man in one of the articles who said that since learning about diabetes, he has never been healthier. Why is that? Now, for the first time in years, he is living a balanced life. He eats better, being careful about carbs, and certainly being careful about the amount he eats so that his body does not absorb a high amount of calories, in turn causing him to gain weight. And he exercises during the week, not allowing himself to live a sedentary life.
The same is true for living a spiritual life. It too can be unbalanced. If I am not committed, I am off balance. In Scripture Christ is critical of anyone who claims to love God but yet does not love his neighbor. In the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelations, Christ speaks strongly about indifference, going so far as to say that He will vomit out of His mouth those who are neither hot nor cold. (Rev. 3:15-16) He speaks passionately about such behavior as it is characteristic of really unbalanced living. Once again unbalanced spiritual living, as with body, is simply unhealthy.
If I simply look at religion as a way to feel good, I am off balance. The example Christ gives here is his own agony, His suffering on the cross. Christ knew happiness, fun, and joy as revealed in the Scriptures too, but He also knew sorrow. All of the Saints knew the value of carrying their own cross in life. This is without exception. So often, people do not reach out to other people because they do not want to be hurt. Typically this is true because they have already been hurt. So, it is perhaps more accurate to say that they do not want to be hurt again. Nonetheless, people in the health care professions, motivational speakers, etc., encourage people not to live isolated lives because, yes, they may avoid pain but they are also removing themselves from experiencing the joys of life as well, which they can also experience from living a life connected to others. I read in a philosophy book that people who live such connected lives are apt to experience more creative lives, largely because they are more fulfilled. (Baggini, What’s it All About? P.59) Can’t it be said that happier lives are healthier lives? Dr. William Glasser, founder of Reality Therapy/Choice Theory, shared from his many years as a practicing psychiatrist, that one common characteristic among people who suffer from any sort of mental disturbance is the lack of any fulfilling relationship. Reaching out to people is that important.
The spirituality found in the Roman Catholic Church reflects such thoughts as expressed above in its own ideals. To say that Christ is fully God and fully man is the definition of balance. And from this principle the other principles are derived. I cannot just go to Mass on Sunday as a consumer simply wanting something; rather, I participate at Mass in a way that reflects what I am committed to living out during the rest of week, indeed, for my entire life. I receive the Lord in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist. I thereupon reveal Him to others in a heartfelt service. I join a parish ministry; I reach out to others. In balanced living, I find that I am receiving more than I am giving. I may know both happiness and pain; on the deepest level I also know the joy that comes from a fulfilled life. God bless you.
Peace, Fr. Walter