In order that we might complete the plan that God has for us in our lives, we must grow in virtue. Growth in the Christian life does not happen by osmosis.
Our growth is to occur as a result of three primary influences:
1. Spending time with Scripture, God’s Word to us
2. The Sacraments
3. Spending time with other Christians (in the family, groups doing the work of Christian charity, evangelizing) and working with them to spread the Gospel and live the virtues.
I want to look specifically today on how the Scriptures help us grow. First of all, I think that many Catholics look at God’s Word as something unconnected to our personal and daily life. It’s read on Sundays at Mass, but I think many people would never think that the Scriptures are actually meant to guide us and help us make major decisions.
Renewing our Mind
When we read and pray with Scripture, it gives us new perspective. The Lord tells us that “His ways and His thoughts are above our ways and thoughts” so when we attune our minds and hearts to God’s Word, we begin go see 1- the many contradictory messages we receive from the world each day 2- the lies that sometimes we have hidden away in our hearts, or that we’ve been exposed to throughout our life – sometimes God surfaces those lies as He seeks to heal us.
3- discovering what it means to live out our faith is a lifelong journey as we integrate what we believe with every area of life. We can’t expect to learn everything of what it means to follow the Lord over night. We need to spend time regularly with the Lord, so our hearts and minds can be renewed.
Fuel for a living relationship
As we read the stories in the Scriptures, we see how the early Christians learned to navigate and spread the Gospel despite the many challenges that came with living in a hostile world. Reading these stories gives us a new perspective on our own lives. Often the Scriptures show us how they were far from perfect, and yet they learned how to grow in their faith. Some of the maxims we learn from Scripture are: 1- If we are never challenged, we will never change and grow. 2- God never brings us anywhere that He doesn’t provide the grace to handle it. 3- Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. 4- Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. We must ask for the grace not only to change our behaviors but also our hearts and our desires.
Growing in the Truth
Jesus promised in the Gospel of St. John that the Spirit would lead us to the “fullness of truth.” As we read and pray with Scripture, one of the things we come across is the many lies each of us is confronted with each day. One of the real challenges for the Christian today is to recognize the many lies we have to believe about ourselves and about God. Sometimes our hearts become hardened. The hurts and sufferings of our lives can cause us to create a wall between us and God because many times God’s Word is asking us to die to self and to change. Change is hard. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Growing in the truth means to mature and put away childish and selfish ways. Some people never learn this lesson. Everything we go through God permits for our salvation and growth in holiness.
We sometimes forget, we cannot change ourselves completely. Only God can truly transform us. We can change behaviors, which God desires us to do, but only God can change the heart. The Scriptures reveal the stories of how He interacted with men and women life us, but Scripture is also “living” and able to directly speak to our hearts as we read it. When we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit resides within us and can change us.
“Now we have received , not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (I Corinthians 2:12)
This Advent, as we prepare for the Coming of our Savior, let’s ask ourselves: Is my heart desiring His will for my life? Am I spending enough time with Him so that my heart can be changed?
God bless, Fr. Dennis