The Marathon to Heaven: A Reflection on Constancy over Quantity

As we enter the new year, we bring with us a list of fresh goals and resolutions. Amongst this list is our desire to grow in holiness. But how often do we find ourselves back in the vicious cycle of our old habits?

The problem is not so much that we are incapable of sticking to a goal, but rather, we are too focused on creating big goals instead of goals which can be maintained over a long period of time.  

The constancy versus quantity debate

A person who exemplifies the characteristic of constancy knows how to persevere in the completion of tasks, particularly when they don’t feel like doing so. Constancy involves fidelity, commitment, dedication, and steadfastness. On the other hand, a person who focuses solely on quantity, on the size and volume of the task, deceives himself by correlating quantity with excellence. Unfortunately, the vastness of something does not always guarantee or suggest excellence. It it not heroic to exercise for hours on end when one feels like it (which could be only once or twice a month). Heroism consists in getting up every morning to exercise for 30 minutes, even on the days we are tired and don’t have the energy to do so. Thus, focusing solely on quantity results in a false sense of security, a sense that progress is being made in the spiritual life even when no progress is being made at all.

The journey to Heaven is a marathon not a sprint.

Why is constancy more important than quantity?Constancy is important because the journey towards Heaven and our growth in the spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint! Jesus tells us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!” (Luke 9:23). Let us ponder on what He means by “daily”. Every day He calls you and me to fight against our human weaknesses and tendency towards laziness, pride, and self-seeking. To win this battle against our concupiscence, it requires continual mortification of the senses and discipline of the will. In the same way one quick burst of energy would be useless to a marathon runner, so too, prayer and mortification that is only done once or twice a month, will not be sufficient to get us to Heaven – it must be continuous!

Olympic athletes dedicate themselves to training every day in hopes of being worthy of a gold medal, but what more should we do as Christians, who are called by God to merit the crown of eternal life? Should we not train just as hard, if not harder, only a daily basis? For the crown of eternal life is worth more than any earthly praise or honour.

The key to achieving our spiritual goals and desire for holiness, is simple – constancy, constancy, constancy! Three practical ways we can maintain constancy in our prayer life this new year:

  1. Create goals which have a 100% success rate of being completed – There is a misconception that goals should be hard and difficult to achieve. Whilst this is true in a certain sense, the personal goals we set ourselves should not be based on difficulty, but rather, based on what will bring about the most fruit in our spiritual life. God would much rather we set a goal of 15 minutes of personal daily prayer which we can confidently complete, instead of setting a goal of 1 hour of personal prayer but only fulfilling it on weekends when we aren’t busy. It is important that the goals we create are reasonable and do not compromise our everyday duties and obligations towards work, family, and health. By ensuring they are within the boundaries of our daily life, they will easily become part of our daily routine and be successfully achieved.
  2. Tell a friend or family member about your goals – Humans are social creatures, and we need each other to grow in holiness! Informing a trusted loved one or a spiritual director, can be a great means towards keeping the promises you made to God. You may even go as far as setting goals together, starting a spiritual reading book club and discussing your thoughts! Having a friend to keep you accountable will assist in keeping you on track and encourage you to keep moving forward even when you don’t feel like it.
  3. When you fall, get up and keep moving forward! – No one is perfect, and there are bound to be some days where we fail to complete the task we hoped for. But that’s okay because God knows our weaknesses. We must not allow the devil to discourage us and prevent us from continuing our journey towards holiness. Jesus reminds us that “the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety” (Jesus to St Faustina, Diary 1488). Therefore, if we forget to pray or miss our daily holy hour, turn to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, and continue your journey towards holiness. There is nothing more pleasing to God than a soul who immediately gets up from a fall.

Whilst we can strive towards consistency in prayer through our human strength, we must not forget the necessity of God’s grace in our pursuit of holiness. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), thus, we ought to ask for his help to remain faithful and steadfast in our pursuit of Heaven! Once you have mastered consistency, the quality of your prayer life will naturally follow, and the quantity will also see an increase as your love for God grows!

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