On November 29th, we began a new year in the church with the First Sunday of Advent. In my homily that day, I spoke of people making new year’s resolutions for the secular new year on January 1st and how we could make a resolution to grow closer to God. Did you make a resolution concerning your faith then? If you did, how has it been going?
If not, January 1st is just a few days away. How about making a new year’s resolution now to make God a bigger part of your life?
Where does one begin? You could begin by making an examination of conscience. If you find you have sinned, then confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to begin the new year with a clean slate. Then, as you make your Act of Contrition, ask God to help you resolve to sin no more.
What else? Of course, prayer is an important part of one’s relationship with God. You can click here to see what blog articles I have written on prayer or see what my website offers on some common devotions. Prayer can be as simple as saying grace before meals. It can be the Rosary. It can be Lectio Divino in reading scripture. It can be spontaneous dialogue with God. Prayer can include time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. Prayer can include coming to daily Mass.
The point is to put God first. Our goal should be to truly mean it when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done.”
How do we know what God’s Will is? It starts with prayer where we do not do all the talking. We need to give God a chance to say something, to give direction to our lives.
It also means putting some effort into learning about our faith. People often have the mistaken notion that they know everything they need to know about their faith by the time they are confirmed. They think they don’t have to learn anything more.
In Luke 8:18, Jesus says, “Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” When we hear the phrase “more will be given“, one might think about material wealth. That’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is talking about faith. If we have a little faith and open ourselves to something more, we will be given a greater faith. Part of this comes from using our reason to learn more about God’s love for us and the Truth that He offers us.
Do we ever really stop learning? One might spend forty years working in the same field and still find themselves learning new things. Likewise, there is always something more we can learn to grow deeper in our faith as we encounter different circumstances throughout our lives.
Here I share a testimonial written by Bill and Mary C. on their experience of my webinars and presentations:
“We have thoroughly enjoyed Father Jeff’s various webinars and presentations. They have refreshed some of our learning from when we were children attending religious education classes and have given us a better understanding of our Faith now that we are “older”. Thank you Father for putting together such clear and informative discussions!”
The truth is that we have a different perspective on learning as adults. As young children, we are taught how to make the Sign of the Cross, to memorize prayers like the Our Father, and to recite the Ten Commandments. As adults, we learn the meaning behind these things to apply them in the way we live our lives.
What we need to do is to open ourselves to learning something new. Then, as Jo O., writes:
“I have attended all of Father Jeff’s presentations and webinars. I also read his blog on a regular basis. I learn something new about my religion each time I read or listen to him. One example is that we do not just say or do things during the Mass. Rather there is always a meaning. I have learned more about my religion in the past year and a half from Father Jeff than I have during the rest of my life. He always leaves me with something to think about.”
Those who don’t know a lot about what the Church teaches may say that they just follow their conscience. In paragraphs 1776-1802, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read that we must be free to follow our conscience and we must seek throughout our lives to have a well-formed conscience.
What do you do to learn more about your faith? Do you read the Bible? Do you listen to podcasts or videos about our faith? Do you do spiritual reading?
On January 13th, I will begin a new series of webinars, Treating Life with Dignity and Love. I will discuss why the Church believes what it does about life and how we can help people choose life without forcing our faith on them. You can find out more and preregister at http://blog.renewaloffaith.org/blog/?p=5477.
So, what are you going to do in 2021 to grow in your relationship with God?