“Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” (Luke 15:27)
“Burnt offerings of fatlings I will offer you and sacrificial smoke of rams; I will sacrifice oxen and goats.” (Psalm 66:15)
Thanks to the advances in chemical and biological sciences in on our Western societies, we have the capacity to know the various components of the foods we consume and the percentages of calories, fats, proteins and carbohydrates in each portion we eat.
In past times, the fat of animals was considered a sign of health and also of beauty in many cases. The standards of health and beauty for human beings have also changed considerably in media. Today we see as positive certain standards of beauty which formerly had been perceived as negative. The worry for personal health and the frequent examinations by our doctor for all kinds of symptoms are now a part of our normal routine.
During the recommended annual physical exam the doctor invariably prescribes a balanced diet and a certain amount of physical exercise per week in order to maintain good health or recover well-being.
Using the metaphor of the body in the previous biblical citations regarding the sacrifice of animals, I would dare to say that spiritually speaking our souls need to put on some weight and maintain that weight during the whole of our earthly existence.
There is no such thing as an excess of virtues when it comes to the authentic spiritual life. Nevertheless, during the canonization process of the saints an investigation is made of the person’s heroic practice of virtue, that is to say, if the person exercised a specific virtue in an extraordinary way or, in other words, excessively.
Our life of faith is a paradox. Jesus told us that we must lose our life to gain it, that he who wishes to be first should be the servant of all, the last of all, etc. In accordance with that paradox I would say that all the prototypes of spiritual health must have excess fat. Those who wish to pass the health exam during the analysis of the soul must have an excess of sanctity.
Spiritually speaking, our heart needs to be surrounded by so much fatty love that it will not lack warmth when the world around it shivers with cold indifference. Our soul needs enormous amounts of extra calories in order to continue serving energetically when others are exhausted.
We need to put on extra pounds caused by the excessive amount of charity’s sugar which sweetens the personal moments of bitterness and manages to dulcify the insipid lives of others.
We should put on weight to the point that the wisdom of our soul can no longer run after the vanities of riches and fame. Our souls should be so heavy that they cannot jump above the others but help others to overcome obstacles.
Faith, hope and above all charity require a lot of exercise. Virtues are toned by many hours of work in our body, mind and soul. The exercise of faith makes it possible for our life to be firmly cemented in Jesus so that in all circumstances we may maintain our faith in the goodness of the human being. The exercise of hope will make us see a world ever increasing in fraternity, solidarity and possibilities of growth. Exercising charity will make us grateful to God for the many brothers and sisters who, by increasing our joys and making our burdens lighter, patiently taught us how to live for others.
Exercising virtue will not make us lose pounds, but it will give us a healthy excess of sanctity in our hearts and souls much like the love of God himself.
In order for our lives to be offered as a pleasing holocaust to God, more than a multitude of bulls and goats, they must be united to the Lamb of God whom we offer on the altar in each Eucharist. In that banquet the sacrificed Lamb is fattened up with so much love, forgiveness, compassion, purity, liberty and joy that there is always enough to feed those who draw near; there is even enough left over to take to those who did not attend the banquet.
Considering the life they lived, I don’t think that Mary, Joseph, the apostles and so many saints that followed were physically fat, but I am convinced that their souls and hearts were certainly obese, overflowing with pounds of divine love. Those excessive pounds of the spirit enabled them to survive the tomb and pass on through the centuries the excess to each new generation of disciples.
Let us also seek to put on an excess of sanctity in our lives. Jesus will smile when he sees his little plump ones.
This is the English translation of Bishop Elizondo's column "Gordura santa" that appeared in the September 2015 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., es obispo auxiliar de Seattle y vicario para el ministerio hispano.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx