by Father Mark Goldasich
Don’t you love January? It’s when some of the best TV comedies are aired. They’re called “weight-loss commercials.”
In one, I discovered that it’s possible to lose over 100 pounds in less than a year. All is takes is “just 30 minutes a day, three times a week.” To the intended audience — flabby, sedentary folks like me — it sounds tempting . . . until you realize just how looooooooonnnnnnngggggg 30 straight minutes of exercise is. For some of us, walking into the kitchen from the TV room to get another bowl of ice cream gets us winded.
In case you haven’t guessed, I had a bit of time to watch some TV over the Christmas holidays. Years ago, I came across a list of “things that only happen in the movies and TV.” I’ve found that they’re just as true today as they were back them. Here are a few examples:
• All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.
• The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.
• A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but he’ll wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
• One man shooting at 20 has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at one.
• Cars that crash will almost always burst into flames.
• You can always park directly outside the building you are visiting.
• On a police stakeout, the action will only start when food is being eaten and scalding hot coffees are perched precariously on the dashboard.
• If a microphone is turned on, it will immediately feed back.
• Any lock can be picked by a credit card or paper clip in seconds — unless it’s the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside. Then the door must be knocked down, usually with just one kick.
• The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place. Nobody will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building undetected.
• All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they will go off.
• Medieval peasants had perfect teeth.
• A single match is usually sufficient to light up a room the size of a football stadium.
• If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into will know all the steps.
• It doesn’t matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts; your enemies will politely wait to attack you one by one, dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.
So, I guess this means that you can’t believe everything that you see on TV. But, deep down, don’t we want to? We want to believe that excess pounds will magically melt away or that we’ll always find a perfect spot to park, especially when we’re running late.
But real life isn’t like that, particularly when we’re striving to change for the better — from losing weight to quitting a bad habit to organizing our home. It’s hard work, plain and simple. It demands clarity of vision, commitment and sacrifice. It means leaving our comfort zones. That’s why it’s indispensible to have a lot of encouragement and support from others . . . and maybe even a partner or two to “share our pain.”
If this is true for things in our physical world, it’s even more the case when it comes to our faith life, to growing in holiness. There’s no holiness “pill” that we can take to magically transform into saints. There’s no special place to travel where we can simply exchange our hardened hearts for compassionate ones. Holiness is a commitment that we have to pursue day after day. It means saying no to selfishness and yes to generosity; it means forsaking time on Facebook or gaming to spend devoted time with God and family; it means being available and responsive to folks we may not want to associate with.
No, this type of life exercise isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile. It’s not something that you can do 30 minutes a day, three times a week; it’s a 24/7 vocation.
But, unlike a quick fix that doesn’t last, a holy life and its effects will endure — far beyond our time here on this earth.
Now, that’s something you truly can believe.