Lent is a wonderful season to deepen our relationship with the crucified and risen Lord. One way to do this is to deepen the commitment of our lives to Christ and live out more authentically the new life we have received in him.
I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. (Galatians 2:19-20)
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
We all know that flipping burgers at the church picnic, singing in the choir, or serving at the soup kitchen does not make us Christian. But what about our Lenten practices like praying more, reading our Bible, or attending Mass more regularly? As helpful as they are in growing in our faith, they do not, in and of themselves, make us Christians. You are a Christian when Jesus plants his divine life into you through Baptism and you receive it through faith. Nothing else can replace this combined act of divine grace and human response! It is a gracious gift, not an earned right like a military rank or an academic degree.
Now, having been crucified with Christ and having received this gift of new life in Christ (Galatians 2:19-20), what are we to do with it? A royal baby has done nothing to merit his future crown, and yet from the day of his birth he is expected to learn the ways of the king and embrace his duties. In a similar way, our new life in Christ also brings certain responsibilities. We must learn the way of the Gospel by embracing Jesus’ teaching in our hearts and in our actions.
If we want the spiritual empowerment of the crucified and risen Christ to have any effect on us at all, then we must become “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). That means that we must step out and do what God says! This is the only way the new life in Christ will move from being a planted seed at baptism to becoming a majestic tree that bears fruit in our lives and out in the world.
The saints are holy not because they spoke eloquently about God but because they committed their lives to Jesus Christ and to doing God’s will. Are we willing to do the same? If we are, each of us can be a “saint” in our own way. Each of us has the awesome privilege of participating in our own salvation through surrender, trust, and obedience to Christ. Of course we can’t save ourselves through works like singing in the choir or reading good spiritual books. But through Christ in us, we can do the works of God and receive eternal life.
“Lord Jesus, I want to please you in every way. I surrender my life to you. By your Spirit, empower me to live a new life worthy of the calling I have received—a life worthy of the grace you have poured into me through your Cross and resurrection.”
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 Scriptures from Galatians 2:19-20 states that we have been “crucified with Christ.” What does that mean to you?
2. The reading from James 1:22-25 tells us that we need to keep ourselves from sin and “to care” for others. What are some steps we can take in our spiritual growth to open ourselves more deeply to God’s transforming love, so that as Catholic men we will “be doers of the word and not hearers only?” If you are in a men’s group, what steps can take together to reach out to others, especially “orphans,” “widows,” and others less fortunate than you?
3. In what way is our obedience to Christ and his commandments in our daily lives a witness to others that he is truly the Lord? How are you doing? What steps can you take to do better; knowing that “doing better” is not just a matter of trying harder but a greater reliance on the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit? Why is our interior peace so dependent on living as godly and holy men?
4. What can we do in our prayer life, and in our celebration of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, that will allow us to experience greater renewal in our inner selves and begin to manifest the love, power, and compassion of Christ to others?
5. In the meditation, we are challenged to become “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). The meditation goes on to say: “That means that we must step out and do what God says! This is the only way the new life in Christ will move from being a planted seed at baptism to becoming a majestic tree that bears fruit in our lives and out in the world.” Is your faith and new life in Christ still just a planted seed or is it blooming and bearing much fruit? What can you do to deepen the new life in Christ that dwells in you?
6. In the meditation, we also hear these challenging words, “The saints are holy not because they spoke eloquently about God but because they committed their lives to Jesus Christ and to doing God’s will. Are you willing to do the same?” If you are in a men’s group, pray for one another that each of you would commit your life more deeply to Jesus Christ. Use the prayer at the end of the mediation as the starting point. Share the fruits of these prayers, and your “ongoing” prayers, at future men’s group meetings.