Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on the theme, “Being Lifted Up In Christ as Catholic Men.”
"Lift up your heads, O gates!” the psalmist cries. “Rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter!” (Psalm 24:7). This sounds a lot like the call we receive at Mass: “Lift up your hearts!” It is an exhortation to focus our eyes on Jesus, who is now lifted up in glory to the right hand of his Father.
Jesus was lifted up on the cross and then to his Father’s right hand because he wants to draw all of us to himself. Of course, for this to happen, we have to let him lift us up. We have to open our hearts to him. But the best part is that it doesn’t all depend on us. God’s love is so great that he stays with us even when we doubt him, betray him, or even disobey him.
His Love Is Tangible. Being drawn to Jesus is something we are meant to experience. We really can feel in our hearts the love that Jesus has for us, not just believe it with our minds. In my experience, I have had times when praying is a real struggle and I feel a spiritual dryness. This happens especially when I am distracted, tired, or focused too much on what I want and not enough on what God wants. On the other hand, there are times when I feel God’s presence deep inside of me. I can feel his grace flowing through me, and it is wonderful. It’s a feeling of divine power that moves me to praise Jesus and give everything I have and everything that I am to him.
How do I know this feeling is from Jesus and not from my own imagination? I look at the signs. The first is a desire to love the Lord in return. When I feel his presence, all I want to do is honor him, thank him, and praise him. I find myself telling him that I want to “sin no more” and to “live in the light,” hiding nothing from him. I say, “Lord, I am going to change,” even though I always seem to renege on my promise. I find myself repeating the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
“Take, O Lord, receive my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be used in accord with your will. Give me only your love and your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.”
How could responses like these come from my own mind? I am so self-centered and so interested in preserving my own life that I could not possibly want to make statements like this on my own. They must be the result of Jesus lifting me up and drawing me to his side.
So as you read the remaining articles in this series, take the words of Psalm 24 and make them your own. Tell Jesus:
“Lord, I want to be lifted up. I want to see your might and your power. I want to be drawn closer to you. Lord, I will raise my eyes to you so that I can feel your love filling me from head to toe, from fingertip to fingertip!”
( Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com . Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ) for allowing us to use his articles from their August issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
1. In the article, we hear these words: “Jesus was lifted up on the cross and then to his Father’s right hand because he wants to draw all of us to himself. Of course, for this to happen, we have to let him lift us up. We have to open our hearts to him.” What do you think it means to be “lifted up” in Christ?
2. What do you think it means to “open our hearts” to Jesus? In what way have you done this?
3. The article goes on to say these words: “We really can feel in our hearts the love that Jesus has for us, not just believe it with our minds.” How would you describe the difference between knowing about Jesus’ love for you and knowing and exeriencing this love? What about you? Do you just know about his love or have you also experienced Jesus love for you in a real way?
4. If you have personally experienced Jesus love, in what way has this occurred?
5. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of would come to know and experience more deeply the love of Jesus Christ. Use the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.
(The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg, a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/ ), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism , (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military and Prisoners . Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com.)