When I hear that line in the first reading: “keep encouraging yourselves while it is still today” (Hebrews 3:13) I always think of the old adage: “Practice makes perfect”. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wants us to practice, every single day, the art of keeping our hearts open to God. He does this because he knows how sneaky and deceitful sin can be. It can creep up on us when we least expect it and try to convince us to make choices that drive a wedge between us and God, or between ourselves and the people around us.
This is why we need to be proactive, taking steps every day that will help us stay close to God. The more we practice, the stronger we become. It takes perseverance and dedication, but the result is worth all the effort.
Developing a life of prayer is easier for those of us who live in a religious community, but we all have to make an effort if we’re not going to drift into a dull routine. Even after decades of religious life, private prayer, lectio divina, the Office and daily Mass, are indispensable. The psalmist tells us that worshipping the God who made us keeps us humble and keeps our hearts soft. A daily dose of perspective, thanking God for who he is and what he has done for us, can do wonders for keeping us humble, grateful and committed to him.
We know that the Scriptures are not just words on a page. It is God’s own voice, capable of speaking directly to our hearts. And so the more time we spend with Scripture, the more opportunity God has to form us and shape us.
The examination of conscience at the end of the day is vitally important. As we get into the habit of looking back on our thoughts and actions, we can become more open to the Holy Spirit’s voice warning us when we begin to go astray.
Once we get into a rhythm it’s easy to keep our hearts open to God: the more we practice our faith, the better we will get.