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What Does It Mean To Put God First?

“How can we better live our lives in such a way that we can put God first?” 

I received the above question from a reader last week and it has got me reflecting a bit on what it really means to put God first.

The easy answer (that just requires a bit of discipline) is to put into place the regular daily/weekly habits that give you frequent opportunities to grow in relationship with God. Mass every Sunday is [obviously] required. Daily prayer is, as well (preferably with the Scriptures). Regular confession is something we all really need to be in the habit of because we all are in need of God’s Mercy. Personally, I make it a habit to read the day’s mass readings each morning and pray a rosary with my family each night. Regular little practices like these are needed in the life of a Christian who wants to grow in relationship with Jesus.

I said all of that is the easy part. If you are not already in the habit, then getting used to these practices will take some time and some effort, but eventually they will become second nature.

However, I think to really answer the question of how we can put God first, Saint John Paul II said it best:

“One must arrange one’s life so that everything praises God.”

This is really the more challenging part of the answer. Once in the habit, that daily family rosary is actually pretty easy, and if we’re not attentive, it can become little more than a box on a checklist, begrudgingly prayed day after day simply because “we’re supposed to.”

It’s ok to go through times of spiritual dryness, and times like these actually strengthen our faith and deepen our devotions. But from time to time, we owe it to our relationship with Jesus to take stock of our lives and ask ourselves:

Am I living my life in a way that everything praises God?

Do I glorify God in my work—offering my best efforts, my successes and even my struggles to Him as an act of praise? Do my interactions with others reflect the Christian belief that they are created in His image and after His likeness? Do my thoughts and dealings with myself bear in mind that I am a beloved child of God? Do I recognize that everything in my life comes from Him and is ordered in His Providence for me to grow closer to Him?

All of this ought to be the driving force behind our regular devotions and our prayers.  Beyond just a sense of duty, love for the Person of Jesus Christ should drive us to put Him first in everything, to arrange our lives so that every moment and every decision is made with Him in mind.  Putting God first is the work of our whole lives as Christians!  Let’s pray that we continually draw closer to Him, and not just settle for a check list.

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The Layers of Humility

 

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Humility is an interesting concept. From the looks of it, we think we are pretty darn good at being humble and we think that we have a strong understanding of it; but the truth is, true humility is deeper than the surface understanding we’re all so familiar with. Humility is something that must be meditated on in order to realize its true profoundness. Therefore, I have come to my personal conclusion that humility exists in two distinct layers: the “aw shucks” layer, and the “here’s the other cheek” layer.

The first layer is the more commonly used layer due to its easy-to-access nature. This layer is not one that requires an abundance of thought, prayer, meditation or teaching to understand.  In order to possess this knowledge one must simply know what it means to be Christian, in the most simplistic way. We are taught that it is good to be humble, and not to boast. Really, we think that saying “aw shucks, I’m not that great” qualifies as humility. For the longest time I thought that humility meant awkwardly pushing off compliments from others, or not constantly screaming from my facebook page that I am the greatest artist to have walked the earth. Now don’t get me wrong, it is good that we don’t constantly boast about our strengths, but that sort of sounds like we’re just getting by with a bare minimum. The reason I call this the “aw shucks” layer is because we have this idea that once we have mastered the art of deflecting complements and refraining from patting ourselves on the back, we think we’re done in the field of humility.

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9)

In the second layer, humility is more than an idea or words; it’s a mindset, a way of living. There is so much more to humility than deflecting praise.  In 2 Chronicles we read, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is a great example.  Humility is not about just saying to one another, “No! You’re great!” because that wouldn’t have been enough to please God; we need to go further. A 2 Chronicles tells us, we need to become submissive. In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, the disciples were discussing among themselves who was the greatest, at which point Jesus put a child in the midst of them and told them to be like that child: vulnerable, small, weak—even pointless, a nothing (in the eyes of the culture at the time). We are called to be this way in the world, to be submissive, to allow others in words and in actions to be before us without the desire of being noted for our humility.

The reason I call this layer the “here’s the other cheek” layer is because one of my all time favorite parts of the Bible is when Jesus tells us:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).

This, in my most sincere opinion, is the truth of humility. If you desire to be truly humble, take this to the chapel and meditate on what it means to give even more to those who take from you. We must learn to be humble in our very nature.

Maybe this is just my own way of understanding, but I have recently started to realize that a lot of people I encounter are only familiar with and live life in terms of the first layer. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s a fact that many of the people— even in our own churches— only live by the first layer. Why do I think that? Because I firmly believe that if we all took the time to understand the second layer of humility (the more profound truth of humility) our communities and this world would look much different than they do now.

What do you think?  How can we better live out true humility?

Guest Post: We Want Love

From Mary: Last week I mentioned that Young And Catholic was going to be running a post from a contributor: Kaylee!  Here is her post, as promised.  Enjoy!

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Something I have been really wrestling with lately is the idea of some sort of religious vocation. For a while I was very interested in it; I thought that it made my heart fly with joy; I was giddy! Then not to long after that, I would be very stubborn against it, insisting that I was called to marriage. It went very back and forth like that a handful of times.  It has been happening since I started viewing religious life as an actual option for my life.

Just recently (as in: it ended today, recently) I had my worst episode of “Nope, I am going to fall in love with a handsome man and we are going to be mushy gushy lovey-dovey for the rest of our stinkin’ lives” that I’ve had yet. It was so bad, in fact, that it had thrust me into a pit of selfishness. I was frustrated that God might be calling me to a life that was without “materialistic” love. Why couldn’t I have what they have? Why can’t I have someone to hold me and tell me as a fact that they loved me? That’s what life is lived for; that’s what is on everyone’s mind, everyday.

Last week(ish), when my latest “I don’t want to be a nun” phase started, I began to really hold onto the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  That might sound kind of lame and overdramatic, but it’s true, and I used those lyrics as a stencil for my hopes. I was starting to desperately cling to the idea of having “someone to hold in the rain.” I was gradually (but somewhat quickly) throwing God out the window, but I was doing so indirectly.  It was more of me pulling other stuff in that caused God to be squeezed out.

I want a boyfriend. I want to hold someone’s hand. I want to get married. I want a man to love me. You know what? I’m just going to go out with an “I’m single” attitude, and let the guys gawk at me (but just a little, you know. Can’t let God think I am totally self-centered).

I was convinced, with a deep sadness at this point, that I was not “saint material.” Since I am not able to live up to God’s standard (for me) of sanctity, then I am going to live a perfectly happy life inside a good moral standard and just allow myself to slip into Purgatory, narrowly avoiding hell. Lukewarm. That was a pitiful goal and I was well aware of it.

I realized something tonight as I worshipped God with some of my friends.  Love isn’t something that I should seek to get anything out of.  Love should be selfless.  Love is a sacrifice of oneself for the sake of the other.

All along, I was thinking of love so selfishly, seeking that I be comforted and held and watched after. I wanted a man to tell me I was worth it.  I wanted a man in order that I would feel fulfilled. I wanted to date someone so that my friends would have something to talk about, so that others would know that I had it in me to date.

When I look at the crucifixion, I see love—a better love than I know how to understand.  And I realized that the reason that is such a beautiful and perfect love is because He didn’t do it for Himself.  The reason that love is so beautiful is because it is selfless.  I realized that religious life isn’t the absence of love; it is the perfection of love.

My heart was given peace tonight as I realized I am strong enough (and you are too)—by the grace of God— to do without material shows of love.  We don’t need that. I don’t need a man to hold me in order for me to know that I am loved; I just need to love Jesus because it proves that He has first loved me (1 John 4:19).

Pray with me as we pray for the strength of those called to religious life, that they may know that love is more than a physical reassurance.  True love is self-sacrifice (John 15:13).

5 Things You Can Do to Make Today Awesome

1. Give at least ten minutes of your time to God in silent, uninterrupted, undistracted prayer. The sooner, the better.

2. When that pesky opportunity to tear someone or something down presents itself in conversation, refuse it. Say something nice instead.

3. Go for a walk. (do this in conjunction with #1 if that works better)

4. Think of how blessed your life has been.  Try to make a list of all of the good things in your life, and see how quickly you run out of paper.

5. Smile (even if you don’t feel like it).

Oh, and check out the daily readings for today.

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” -Romans 8:28

 

Lukewarm-ness

Nothing like Ash Wednesday to make you realize how very much you needed Lent.  It’s funny how any other day of the year I can make it to 6pm without eating a meal and hardly realize it…but on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, my inner monologue is whining all day.

On that cheery note, I’m linking to a post a friend wrote about one of the seven deadly sins: sloth.  Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s much more than sitting on the couch in your pajamas eating potato chips…

Sloth, also known as acedia, seems like the most misunderstood of all the seven deadly sins. I have to admit, when first reading about what the sin of Sloth actually was, I was surprised. I had the thought that it was basically a sin of laziness—just being lazy towards homework or other duties that need our attention. I thought it was connected with the terrible notion of snoozing my alarm clock in the morning and not getting up when I should. Sloth is way worse than this.

Sloth is defined as spiritual laziness where we refuse to seek what we need for our soul’s salvation. It is the rejection of our effort to combat difficulties in the pursuit of holiness. St. Thomas Aquinas defines sloth as “torpor in the presence of spiritual good which is Divine good. In other words, a man is then formally distressed at the prospect of what he must do for God to bring about or keep intact his friendship with God.”1 In other words, a slothful person knows the good he ought to do, but does not desire it

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…fortunately for me, being too lazy to come up with a blog post is not the sin of sloth, and it can be easily remedied by linking to smart friends 🙂