It is always interesting to watch and observe my children’s response and reaction when they learn that their dentist or doctor sent a reminder about an annual check-up. They appear curious but also cautious, excited but also anxious. They ask questions and try to find out as much as possible, but at the end, they usually decide that a free lollipop, which they typically get in the pediatrician’s office, is worth the risk. The lollipop might not be much of a decision-making factor for us – adults, but we too take our annual checks very seriously. The moment we get the check-up reminder SMS or email, we get to the doctor’s website to confirm and schedule our visit. We make every effort to prioritize and attend our medical appointments. We pay close attention to everything the doctor says and suggests. Undoubtedly, this is a good thing. Our bodies and our health are a divine gift and miracle and we should protect and cherish them.
We know that everything God created was either spiritual or physical. It is only the human being that is both spiritual and also, of course, physical. How do we attend to our spiritual health and well-being? Too often, we simply might not even know how to give our spiritual well-being the same importance.
In the Scriptural passages for today, we see a lot of conflict and confrontation. The reading from the epistle echoes St. Paul’s rebuke of his newly founded church members. The apostle encourages them to examine their faith, to embrace spiritual growth by removing every obstacle and destruction from their lives. In the Gospel reading, we see Sadducees and Pharisees arguing and questioning Christ. We hear our Lord criticizing and urging them to reexamine their understanding and interpretation of the law, faith and sacred tradition. Though these stories’ historical and theological background might be different, the message is the same. Both include a clear and powerful invitation to examine and evaluate our faith and spirituality.
In the same way that our bodies need and rely on the annual medical check-up, our spiritual well-being requires care, healing, renewal, periodic examination and rehabilitation. We find a call for self-examination, renewal in virtually every Gospel story. A mere glance into the Armenian Church’s liturgical circle will reveal that almost half of the days in the liturgical calendar are dedicated to fasting, prayer and penance. Penance is nothing but a liturgical prayerful rehabilitation and cleansing designed by the Church fathers and purified by centuries of experience.
This sacred process of spiritual renewal and healing takes place in many forms and all of them are equally important and beneficial. We are encouraged to find time and space in our busy schedules every evening and prayerfully examine our day, our words, thoughts, emotions, encounters with others and raise them all to God for guidance and consolation. This simple spiritual discipline cleanses our minds and does miracles for our souls. It is certainly beneficial to have friends who can relate to our spiritual lives and struggles and help us grow in our faith. It is most definitely a good practice to have periodic private confessions with a priest. Being in a safe spiritual space where we can open our souls to another human being is a miraculous and truly empowering experience. Having a spiritual father and mentor, meeting with them on a regular basis is something that every Christian is encouraged to do. It is often the parish priest who assumes this role, but then of course, in some cases, it might be another clergy with whom we can connect and nurture that deep spiritual relationship. Above all, it is our personal life of prayer and relationship with Christ that brings peace to our souls and calms every storm and turbulence of our minds.