In today’s world, we want instant gratification. Anytime we have to wait for something we desire, we get upset or feel let down. We want what we want when we want it.
The problem is, things don’t always work that way, and our relationship with God definitely doesn’t work that way. There’s no “easy” button we can push to grow in our love for God. Our relationship with him requires a lot of work and nurturing. Though Christ is always there waiting for us to turn to him, he also puts our love to the test. He doesn’t just want our willingness to love him, he wants our time and our whole heart. To come to know and love him more deeply, we cannot merely phone it in and give him the bare minimum, expecting him to always be there at our convenience. God is Three Persons…not a genie in a bottle. In order for our relationship with him to grow, we must care for it on a daily basis. Just like any other relationship, the strength of the bond between persons grows stronger when it is cherished and cultivated.
Here are five ways to grow closer to the Lord:
1. READ YOUR BIBLE EVERYDAY.
The Bible is the greatest love story ever told. It is about God’s deep and abiding love for humanity, and a reminder of his fidelity to us. The more we familiarize ourselves with salvation history, the more we see our part in it. Sacred Scripture is the inspired Word of God, and when we read it on a daily basis, God’s Word becomes alive in our heart.
Since it is God’s inspired Word, it is also an immediate way to grow closer to Christ who is the living Word made flesh. As the Catechism says, “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.” (CCC 104) Allow God to converse with you through Sacred Scripture each day!
Even though it is a no-brainer that Christian’s are called to read Sacred Scripture, it can nevertheless be quite daunting to dive in to. If you don’t know how to read the Bible, when you pick up Scripture for the first time you may end up feeling defeated and confused right from the start. It’s important to understand that there is one golden thread woven throughout all of Scripture, and it takes a little effort to be able to see the big picture. My suggestion to you is twofold: 1. Come to an understanding of the salvation history timeline in the Bible, and 2. Use a daily companion guide to keep you reading and help you stay focused.
Some Resources for Understanding the Story of Salvation:
- A Father Who Keep’s His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn
- Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History, by John Bergsma
- The Adventure Bible Timeline, by Jeff Cavins
Companion Guide Resources:
- The Magnificat, a Catholic Magazine that comes once a month. It includes daily prayers, daily Mass readings and reflections.
- Read the Bible in a Year pamphlet guide
- The Word Among Us, daily Mass readings and reflections
- Daily Mass readings sent straight to your email from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Subscribe at the bottom of this link.
2. CARVE OUT 15 TO 30 MINUTES FOR PRAYER EACH DAY.
Our relationship with God requires more than just throwing up “popcorn” prayers to him, and treating him like a master ready to grant wishes. So often we end up relying on that type of prayer because, again, we live in a culture that desires instant-gratification. This need for instant fulfillment of our wants has seeped into our relationships.
For a relationship to be built on a sustainable and authentic love, it requires much more than self-gratification. It requires effort, fidelity, discipline, self-sacrifice, open-communication, ability to give the benefit of the doubt, trust, and time. When two people pour themselves out in love for the other, it is a relationship to be admired. So it goes with God. God pours himself out in love for us, and we cannot expect our relationship to thrive if we don’t give ourselves back to him wholeheartedly.
Give God at least 15-30 minutes a day–show up for him, talk to him, give him your needs, praise him in thanksgiving, and listen to him speaking to your heart. A great way to do this is by going to adoration once a week for an hour, and/or adding an additional Mass to your week.
3. INTRODUCE SILENCE INTO YOUR DAY.
People often expect for God to speak in thunderbolts and lightening. How do I know God is listening if I don’t hear him loud and clear? Ask yourself: When was the last time you created enough silence in your life to actually hear him? It is incredibly rare that God speaks loudly and in flashes of light. We can’t all expect to be Saint Paul, riding our horse against his will until he knocks us off and asks us to do otherwise. More often than not, God wants to slowly and quietly mold us, like a potter with clay. He speaks to us in the silence of our hearts, drawing us in to himself and away from the static of the world. If we have the constant noise of the world entertaining our heart, we won’t be able to hear him. Quiet your heart. Quiet your life. Enter into some silence.
Some ways to allow silence:
- Fast from social media; spend the time you normally use to scroll offering it up to God
- Turn off the radio in your car and pray while you drive
- Turn off background noise when you are completing chores; offer up your work for your family
- Spend time outside without any technological distractions or your to-do list
4. TRY A LITTLE MORTIFICATION.
Though the word “mortification” sounds a bit scary and may draw your mind to hair-shirts and self-flagellation, what it really means is self-sacrifice. Mortification is a voluntary action by which we gradually put to death all of our vices, sinful habits, and self-centered tendencies. The purpose is to “clean up the garden of the soul”–to tend and prune all the weeds we’ve allowed to take over in our lives. Mortification is the means by which we uproot sin, instead filling our souls with virtue. It is an act done out complete love for God (not because we desire to suffer). Acts of mortification can be internal or external, and they find their meaning in the Cross of Christ crucified. It is there that we meet our suffering Lord, and respond with him to God, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
In that way, everyone is called to a little mortification. All the masters of the spiritual life practiced mortification, including Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa, St. Francis de Sales, and Saint John Paul the Great.
If it still sounds a little daunting, you may be surprised to find out that you may already be practicing mortification in your life in some small form. All of us from time to time make acts of mortification when we deny ourselves something for a greater good. This can be as simple as giving up a seat for the elderly, not grabbing the last slice of pizza (even though you want it) in order to save it for your friend/spouse, or getting out of a shower fast so as not to use all the hot water. These can be little or big, internal or external acts.
Some examples of mortification you might try in your life: restricting food to simple necessity; avoiding frequent indulgences; fasting from certain favorite foods; taking rest only insofar as it is necessary (i.e. avoiding laziness); getting up the first time your alarm goes off; not taking creamer in your coffee; avoiding gossip, etc.
Whatever you so choose (these are just a few examples), mortification will allow you to progress in virtue, and thus grow closer to the Lord.
5. GET TO KNOW THE MOTHER OF GOD BETTER.
Many people are afraid to give their hearts to Mary, but doing so is a sure path to her Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As Saint Maximilian Kolbe once said, “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”
All of the great saints and spiritual masters had a deep devotion and love for Mary. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
- Saint John Paul II: “From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God.”
- Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “If you ever feel distressed during your day–call upon your Lady–just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a Mother to me now.’ I must admit–this prayer has never failed me.”
- Saint Jose Maria Escriva: “Before, by yourself, you couldn’t. Now, you’ve turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!”
- Saint Theresa of Lisieux: “In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.”
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.”
- Saint Augustine: “The world being unworthy to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her.”
Mary’s love for us is strong. She is our guide to Christ. She gently grabs us by the hand, leading us straight to her Son’s feet. She teaches us what it means to respond to God wholeheartedly, and she shows us what it means to magnify him with our lives. And as Saint Louis de Montfort once said, “Mary is the safest, easiest, shortest, and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.”
Ways to grow closer to Mary:
- Pray the Rosary. Use meditation guides like A Mother’s Bouquet, The Magnificat Rosary Companion, The Joyful Mysteries.
- Ask for her intercession to come to know and love her more deeply. Then ask her to bring you closer to her Son.
- Read “The World’s First Love,” by Venerable Fulton Sheen
God loves us so much. He created us for himself, so that we can share in his glory and his goodness. The more we avoid him and neglect to grow in love for him, the more our hearts will remain restless. It is when we fully rest in his love that we will find ourselves the most joyful we have ever been–no matter what comes our way.