I was never a star athlete, but I did play on some teams in high school and have done my share of coaching. Whether it was soccer, tennis, basketball, or baseball, I recall the coaches exhorting us to attack the ball. Never wait for the ball to come to you. If you wait, the ball will play you, instead of you controlling the ball. More importantly, your opponent, himself attacking the ball, will steal it from you. I have always remembered this, and in turn exhorted my charges with the same advice.
I think this attack the ball instruction is relevant in all sorts of endeavors and is particularly useful in our spiritual life.
So often we can be passive in our spiritual life. We go to Mass and recite the Creed and the Confiteor by rote. We hear the Word and the homily but can’t remember it 2 hours later. We may even pat ourselves on the back when we “pray” the rosary with our family, but in fact, we use the time to think about our problems or what we want to do later in the day.
We do get active in our prayer life when we need something. Our concentration sharpens like a laser when a major decision looms or a family member is in critical condition. These times when we actually “attack the ball” are invitations to keep attacking the ball when the crisis has past.
All of us, at times, need some reminders and some rejuvenation of our spiritual life. We think we are doing pretty well, advancing, open to God’s voice … but sometimes we fall into routine. The cares of the world start gripping our heart, and we stop paying attention to the only ball that really matters. At those times, we need to wake up and attack the ball again before we lose sight of it forever.
With a merely passive spiritual life, not only do we not advance in our real purpose in life, we risk having “the ball”, our Faith and love of God, stolen from us by our opponent, Satan. We need to remember St. Peter’s exhortation: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 Douay Rheims translation)