Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on the theme, “Being Lifted Up In Christ as Catholic Men.”
Jesus wants to make us more and more like himself. As Jesus neared the end of his public ministry, he made a prediction about his coming passion and death. “When I am lifted up from the earth,” he said, “I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). These words, which are so full of promise and hope, show us that Jesus didn’t come just to forgive our sins. He also came to bring us into a relationship with him. He came so that we could be “drawn” to him and “lifted up” with him to the presence of his heavenly Father.
In this article, and the articles that follow, we want to take a look at what it means to be lifted up with Jesus. What happens when we are lifted up? What does it mean for us to lift up our own hearts to the Lord? As we examine these questions, we will discover that when God raises us up, he does so by giving us a taste of his own life and love. We will also discover how these experiences can bring about real and lasting change in our lives.
The Promise of “Divinization.” The first question we need to ask is what are we being lifted up from, and where are we being lifted up to? The simple answer is that God lifts us from earth to heaven. But we have to be careful here. We are not implying that everything in this world is evil and that God wants to separate us from the world. On the contrary, he lifts us up to heaven so that, filled with his grace, we can be a more effective force for good and holiness on the earth.
When we say that God lifts us up from the earth, we are really saying that he takes us out of the limited philosophies that are prevalent in the world. He lifts us out of our narrow self-focused concerns and gives us a sense of his grandeur, his power, and his love. He raises us above our limited expectations for our lives and shows us that we really can overcome sin and that we really can live holy, godly lives in this world.
Over time, as we experience God lifting us up more and more frequently, we find ourselves changing. We find the Holy Spirit making us more like Jesus. We find him delivering us from old ways of sin and limited vision so that we can live in closer union with the Lord. Some of the saints have gone so far as to call this process of transformation “divinization,” where God forms us into his image and likeness so fully that we begin to think and act like Jesus.
This process begins at baptism, but it doesn’t happen automatically. We need to cooperate with the Spirit. God wants us to yield to him and his ways, and for that we need the right disposition, one of dependence on God. What does this dependence look like? Well, children and babies are dependent on their parents and other caregivers — but especially in the case of babies, they aren’t really aware of this, and so they don’t make any decisions to remain dependent.
On the other hand, adults know when they need the help of someone else. It may be in times of sickness or financial need. It may be as they age and become infirm. Or it may simply be the case of a man acknowledging that he needs the love of his wife because he does not want to be alone.
All of these examples give us an indication of the way God wants us to come to him. He wants us to know that we need his grace. He wants us to confess that we need to be lifted up so that we won’t get dragged down to a completely worldly way of living.
In the next article, we will look at the life of Abraham and see how he experienced God lifting him up and transforming his life.
( 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 by Catholic Men
1. In the first paragraph of the article, we hear these words: “Jesus didn’t come just to forgive our sins. He also came to bring us into a relationship with him. He came so that we could be “drawn” to him and “lifted up” with him to the presence of his heavenly Father.” How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
2. How would you answer the following questions from the article?
- What happens when we are lifted up?
- What does it mean for us to lift up our own hearts to the Lord?
- What are we being lifted up from, and where are we being lifted up to?
3. We also hear these words in the article: “Over time, as we experience God lifting us up more and more frequently, we find ourselves changing.” How would you describe the ways that God has changed you, as you have drawn closer to him?
4. How would you describe the term “divinization” that is used in the article?
5. The article says that the process of divinization requires us to “cooperate with the Spirit. God wants us to yield to him and his ways, and for that we need the right disposition, one of dependence on God.” What steps can you take to cooperate more fully with the Spirit, yield to God, and be more dependent on him?
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)