Brothers, God is infinitely more powerful than sin, Satan, and the world. We also know that through faith and Baptism, this same powerful God has taken up residence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. If this is so, then why shouldn’t we as Catholic men expect to be victorious in our battle against these same forces? Are you experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power and love at work within you? Would you like to experience this work in a deeper way?
As men, we may think the answer to these questions is to just try harder or strive more. But this approach will fall short, unless we strengthen our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and open ourselves more to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This, of course, requires God’s grace, but we still have a role to play. Below are some steps we can take each day in this New Year to open ourselves to this work of God. They are not intended to be a daily “To Do” list to just check off each day. They are intended to be daily spiritual habits that allow us to grow and mature as a men of the Spirit and lead Spirit-filled and Spirit-led lives.
As you read and reflect on these steps, you may want to pick just a few to implement now and, perhaps, implement others at a future time during the year.
1. Every day when you first wake up, give your life to the Lord and ask him to fill you afresh with his Holy Spirit. Whether you wake up full of zeal, or half-hearted or heavy-laden, dedicate yourself and your day to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let Jesus know how dependent you are on the work of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. Ask him to give you that love, peace, and joy – fruits of the Spirit that can only come from knowing Jesus Christ as Lord, and knowing and experiencing his great love for you.
2. Every day, spend ten minutes or more in personal prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to you. Pursue the Holy Spirit every day in prayer. Ask the Lord to enlighten you with his Holy Spirit so that you might know him in your heart and that you might embrace his glorious plan for your life more fully. St. Paul told the Corinthians that God wanted to reveal to them his secret wisdom, things that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). St. Paul also prayed for the Ephesians that God would enlighten the eyes of their hearts so that they could perceive his call and the inheritance that is theirs in Christ (Ephesians 1:18). This prayer of St. Paul is for us as well.
3. Every day, spend ten minutes or more prayerfully pondering Scripture. Ask the Holy Spirit to open the Scripture for you. Ask him to show you the Father’s love (Romans 5:5). Ask him to fill your heart and your mind with the truths of the Gospel. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how these truths can be applied more fully to your life.
4. Every day, offer the Lord all the gifts he has given you and ask him to deepen in you the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has blessed each of you with gifts of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let these gifts grow dormant and be powerless in your life. Consider the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe (Isaiah 11:2). Consider the various charisms that God bestows for serving and building up the body of Christ: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and many more (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; see also Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:8-13). Every day, seek these gifts and be open to receiving them. Every day, surrender these gifts to the Lordship of Christ. These gifts, so generously given by God, will enable you to follow God’s will for your life, better serve Him and others, build up his Church, and further his kingdom (1 Corinthians 14:3-5).
5. Throughout the day, turn to the Holy Spirit. Be attentive and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Also, be alert to the battle between spirit and flesh. Whether you are facing a difficulty or temptation, or you are about to embark on a new effort, ask the Holy Spirit to anoint your words and actions in accordance with God’s will. Keep a cross or crucifix in your pocket to remind you that God loves you, and that your position is secure as a favored child of God, because of Jesus death and resurrection. When you are bombarded in your mind with negative thoughts or images, ask yourself where they are coming from and whether this is the way the Holy Spirit communicates with you. Try to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, not the “world, the flesh, and the devil.”
6. Examine your conscience daily. Ask the Spirit to help you repent and ask forgiveness for the things that separate you from God. Try to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. As you experience the cleansing work of God’s forgiveness, you will be set free of shame, guilt, and self-condemnation. But more than that, through the work of his Spirit, you will receive grace and power to overcome sin patterns in your life.
In addition to the above steps, try to open yourself to the Spirit each time you attend Mass. Since you have so generous a Father, be eager to seek his Holy Spirit at Mass. At each Mass, ask Jesus to immerse you in his Spirit. Ask him to give you a new experience of the Spirit and a deep confidence in his love for you. In the Eucharistic prayer, the priest asks the Father to send his Spirit upon the bread and wine “so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But it’s not only the bread and wine God wants to transform. As you receive Communion, you too can be transformed by the Spirit as well. You too can come to share in the “love of God that has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit he has given us” (Romans 5:5). Believe that your life can be changed each time you receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One last step I recommend is to design a plan for your ongoing spiritual growth. Your plan should include those things that will develop your faith, including spiritual reading, fellowship with other Catholic men, and active participation in the life of the church
As you implement and try to be faithful to the steps you have chosen, you will experience the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit as he transforms you into a “man of the Spirit.”
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones“ (Ephesians 1:18).
Come, Holy Spirit and enlighten our hearts and give us the power to be faithful to your call. Fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit and give us all the gifts we need to serve you.
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Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The article says that “God is infinitely more powerful than sin, Satan, and the world.” If this is so, why do we as Catholic men struggle so much to overcome sin, Satan, and the world?
2. Why is living more godly lives not just a matter of trying harder or striving more to be holy.
3. Of the steps listed above, which ones do you believe can be implemented right now in your life? Which ones cannot? Share the reasons why. Are there any additional steps you would add or delete from the list?
4. Are you willing to be accountable for implementing at least two or three of the above steps over the next few weeks? Use the steps you have identified as most applicable to your life right now to develop a personalized daily plan for yourself. Pray for one another for the grace to be faithful to your plans. If you are in a men’s group, share the impact at your next meeting these steps are having on living each day as a “man of the Spirit.”
5. What additional steps can you implement in the future (over and above those previously identified)? What impact do you expect these additional steps to have on strengthening your walk as a man of the Spirit? At a future men’s group meeting, share the impact these additional steps have had on you.
6. Pray for one another for the grace to be faithful to the steps you believe the Lord wants you to take to be a man of the Spirit.