"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain." (St. Padre Pio)
To struggle against oneself is to face the truth about oneself. Until we come face to face with the reality that is our ego, we can never truly die to it. "He must increase so I must decrease," said John the Baptist (John 3:30), but only after he suffered knowing himself fully. Perhaps he lived the life of an ascetic because he recognized in himself a hunger which he needed to curtail in order to follow Christ.
Does our society wallow in reality shows because we can collectively cluck our tongues and shake our heads, thankful that we ourselves haven't sunk so low? But haven't we? It's when we can look at ourselves as harshly as we look at others that we can begin the work which Padre Pio speaks of: truly struggling against the SELF which demands to be recognized.
We may not need to live off the land on locusts and honey, but we do need to dig a little deeper into what makes us tick, and it can be painful to realize that we might be craving affirmation, acceptance and applause as much as any reality show contestant. Today, let's begin that struggle - perhaps by making a good confession, or at least turning off the TV.
St. Padre Pio, pray for us!