One of the great things about the Easter season is that, having heard so much about all that God has done for us and about what He has called us to, we’re reminded of where our real priorities should lie.
But when the pull of that habit of self-gratification or self-focusedness is so strong, how do we change it? How do we actually shift the focus of our lives off of ourselves, off our own wants and egos, and onto God? How do we make God the real first priority in our lives?
There are many approaches, spanning most classic writings on Catholic spirituality throughout the centuries. However, one that’s been coming back to me again and again recently has been the practice of building up of a habit of receptivity.
The thing is – without God we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). So, there’s no sense in trying to put together our own perfect plan of attack towards sainthood. We will fail. On our own, we will eventually run out of steam and give up, overcome by that habitual pull of self-focusedness. There’s a reason God came in the flesh to save us from our sins. That pull, that tug we inherited from the Fall, is too strong to be overcome by anyone but God alone!
The only way we can “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling,” is by creating a habit of allowing God to have His way in us; “for it is God who is at work in [us].” (Phil 2:12-13) Simply put, we have to build up the habit of saying yes to God, and of not refusing Him. We must develop the habit of receptivity towards Him. This is what we should be doing at all times; it should make up the backbone of the rhythm of our daily lives. Instead of relying on our own plans, on our own steam, we must instead “structure our days in a way that opens the doors to God’s grace” (1) – and all else will follow.
As Jacques Philippe has put it: “We should fight, not to attain holiness as a result of our own efforts, but to let God act in us without out putting up any resistance against him; we should fight to open ourselves as fully as possible to his grace, which sanctifies us.” (2)
How can we do this? It may be in planning regular times of prayer and recollection throughout the day, to keep that focus on hearing God’s call to love as He loves. It could be through cultivating a place of constant silence and peace in your heart, where God can always speak to you. Whatever the method, it seems to come down to becoming constantly present to what God is asking of you – be it prayer, caring for a loved one, doing good work, or anything else – and doing it because He wills it.
Is God really first in your life?
May we never forget to revisit this question! And may He reign, more and more, in our hearts.
- A paraphrase of Edith Stein by Colleen Carroll Campbell, in The Feminine Genius CD by Lighthouse Media
- Jacques Philippe, In the School of the Holy Spirit, trans. Helena Scott (New York, NY: Scepter Publishers) 2007, p. 14-15
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