Do You know How to Live the Resurrection?
We are a Resurrection people. Sometimes we forget that simple but poignant truth, especially as we scurry about in the midst of alarming news concerning modern-day martyrdoms, suicides, natural disasters, economic crises, and political upheaval. It’s all too easy to get caught up in fear, which ultimately distracts us from remembering who we are as people of hope. While it’s true that somber meditation on Jesus’ Passion and entire Paschal Mystery is appropriate and necessary, we can’t stop our thoughts there. We must recall the message of mercy hidden in that awful story, which is the Resurrection.
During Eastertide, we can continue some of our Lenten practices in a new way, in light of who we are—people who believe that Jesus conquered sin and death making new life, metaphorically and literally, God’s gift to us. When we live in the thick of this faith and truly adopt its message into the core of our worldview, life takes on an entirely different and fresh meaning. Perhaps Lent is a liturgical season that shakes us up a bit, reminding us of what’s truly important. Lent forces us to face the reality of suffering, yet we keep in mind the Light who awaits us at the end of the dark night.
Easter is upon us, and as we welcome its dawn with renewed perspective, it’s prudent to take some time in prayer to ask God how we might maintain the spiritual disciplines we’ve taken up or rediscovered during our Lenten journey. Here are a few ideas on how we can live as people of the Resurrection every day of our lives.
Discover a new form of prayer
Did you pick up your rosary during Lent, or perhaps learn the Divine Mercy chaplet? Maybe you decided to try Lectio Divina or reading Scripture on a daily basis. Whatever form of prayer you chose to attempt, you might want to maintain the habit well after Lent is over and you enter into Easter. A deepened prayer life offers many benefits, especially the fruit it will bear in your interior disposition.
Along with prayer, consider spiritual direction. A well-trained and devout spiritual director is an objective guide who journeys with you as you grow in holiness. The season of Easter is the perfect time to find one who fits your personality and has remained faithful to the tenets of the Church.
Prayer is one of those areas of our spiritual walk that gets neglected or overlooked quite easily, mainly because we erroneously believe it must involve some sort of rote or memorized litany or chaplet. If we keep in the forefront of our minds that prayer is a holy conversation and dialogue of love with God, we may be more inclined to make daily prayer a habit that we continue indefinitely.
Acedia is one of those sneaky vices that seems to be affecting even the most well-intentioned of faithful followers these days. We are consumed with busyness in every facet of our lives, from school or work to community and parish volunteering and our home and family lives. Technology doesn’t help us use what little downtime we have as an opportunity to quietly listen to God’s voice; in fact, it often hinders and tempts us away from solitude.
But it’s critical to remember that solitude fosters silence, which is the seed of prayer. If we truly want to live as people of faith, we must discipline ourselves for much-needed solitude. While this is no small feat, it can be done in fairly non-threatening and doable increments of time. Start with five minutes per day. You may have to schedule it on your calendar, but (as silly as it may seem), do it.
After a while, five minutes will not be nearly long enough, so increase it to ten, and continue to do this by five minute increments until you have reached a feasible amount of time that fits in with your vocation. My thirty to forty-five minutes of solitude each day is sacred, despite the fact that I have to get up earlier than my children and am often tired from the previous day’s hustle and bustle.
Solitude revitalizes our souls. It is like food or medicine for the weary and wounded heart, so we must learn ways to incorporate solitude into each day.
Most Catholics don’t like the word evangelize. In fact, we tend to cringe when we read or hear it spoken, because it conjures up images of the door-to-door JW trying desperately to convince us that we are on the path to perdition because of our religious beliefs. Evangelizing comes in many forms, however. You might be (pleasantly) surprised to realize that it’s preferable to witness to the Faith through actions rather than by proselytizing.
There are many ways we evangelize without knowing it – wearing ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, making the sign of the Cross in public, attending Mass while on vacation or in the midst of a secular event that occurs over a weekend, etc. No words are necessary, yet the message is clear and speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe. The key to evangelizing well is to
- know yourself and the spiritual gifts you were given
- be open to how the Holy Spirit is prompting you to witness to your faith in public
- overcome any reticence or fear through prayer.
We don’t have to proclaim fire-and-brimstone warnings from street corners in order to win souls for Christ. In fact, most people are drawn to Catholicism by love, and love is often subtle. Love requires patience and time invested in another person to listen to his or her woes and respond with empathy. When people see the fruit of your life and how joy and hope are themes, despite your sufferings, they will want to know the God you serve.
Seek ways to use your spiritual charisms in your community
Are you gifted in teaching, encouraging, administration, or music? Perhaps you are skilled in mechanics or listening with compassion. Whatever your particular charism(s), there is a need for your talents in your parish and within your wider community. Find out what ministries or organizations are seeking whatever natural or spiritual gift you have to offer, and then pray about how God might be calling you to serve others beyond your day job and family obligations. Life is about much more than the monotony of nine-to-five desk jobs. You will be enriched, and so will your community, if you reach out to those in need.
Grow in humility
Humility is likely one of the most overlooked virtues in our modern society. Consider the personalities that are lauded and rewarded: ambitious, outspoken, driven, and often overbearing types who climb the corporate ladder and smoosh everyone else below them in order to reach their goals of wealth and accolades.
Jesus showed us another, better way to live: through humility. Recall often that all of Jesus’ life was a humiliation, from His poor beginnings to His painful end. The Resurrection reminds us that humility is the path to spiritual perfection, which is not necessarily the avenue that the world offers us. Any time you accept criticism without an irate or impulsive response, listen to others rather than monopolizing conversations, or accept outright persecution, slander, libel, or ostracizing, you are choosing to grow in humility.
This is the foundational virtue from which all others will spring forth in your life: charity, hope, and faith; prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Ask Jesus for ways you can walk alongside Him through hidden acts of humility, and you will grow immensely in holiness.
It’s so easy to become downtrodden when we consider the suffering and evil that permeates our world. As a mom of two young girls, I often get discouraged by simple things, like television commercials, popular songs on the radio, or immodest clothing. It’s as if everything around me is suffocating the family with ways to fit in with secular society rather than encourage a lifestyle that encompasses wholesome and humble values.
Joy, then, can be difficult to find under those murky and nefarious messages. But we must create joy rather than passively hope that joy comes our way. It’s true that joy is a spiritual fruit, but it’s also a virtue that can be fostered by the human will, so we can – and should – look for all of the ordinary happenings surrounding us each day that God may choose as blessings for us.
Remember, too, that joy is not equal to happiness. Happiness, while euphoric, is a fleeting and fanciful emotion, while joy is of greater substance than one’s contentment with life. Joy often exists in the mundane, arcane, and even painful aspects of our lives as a quiet but constant presence that comforts and uplifts us. Look for joy each day, and you will find it easier to grasp as time progresses.
Foster meaningful relationships
Jesus was the Master of human relationships. Everywhere He traveled, people were mesmerized by Him and often dramatically changed their lives because of their encounters. If we want to mirror Jesus in our own lives, we need to return to intentional relationships. It’s common for us to erroneously assume that every contact with another person equates a deliberate and authentic encounter. But that’s quite the contrary. We can’t go about texting constantly and allowing interruptions on our cell phones during our coffee dates or lunch appointments, thinking that merely sitting with another person satisfies the deep longing for relationship.
The truth is that relationships take incredible effort, and this, too, is part of our calling as people of the Resurrection. We must first undergo our own Calvary by sacrificing our time and perhaps even our own narcissistic satisfaction in order to truly be present to another person who needs us and is longing to be heard, validated, and loved. That is the Resurrection – how we show love through our own gift of time and presence. Choose to be present to the people God has given you, and the depth of relationship you both will enjoy will be long-lasting indeed.
Adopt an attitude of thanksgiving
Gratitude trumps despair. In our overmedicated culture, depression reigns as the “common cold of mental illness,” and with good reason: most people have found no reason to hope in anything – or anyone – beyond themselves. That’s not to say that depression isn’t a valid medical condition, because indeed it can be. But there has to be an underlying reason why more people than ever before are being diagnosed as clinically depressed, then put on psychotropic medication to suppress its symptoms.
One of the best ways to overcome transitional or conditional depression is by practicing gratitude. Some people keep a journal and list everything they are thankful for at each day’s end. Others write prayers of thanksgiving or take a walk and note all of the earth’s bounty and riches that God has given us. Whatever your form or fashion, practicing gratitude on a daily basis is likely the best and fastest way to overcome despondency and self-pity.
Meditate on Resurrection symbols (butterfly, empty tomb)
Butterflies have always been symbolically meaningful to me. As a child, I often pondered the meaning behind it, and when I was introduced to a beautiful tale called “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus, I knew exactly why I loved those delicate creatures so dearly. The caterpillar is all of us before we embark on the painstaking journey toward conversion. If we remain there, we will die as such – nothing more than self-seeking insects crawling on our bellies and satisfying our every whim.
But if we believe in something beyond mere existence (that is, have faith in the Resurrection), we will take that leap into the chrysalis, or tomb, and wait patiently for God to transform us by grace. Only then will we experience the freedom of the flight as an unbridled butterfly.
Similarly, we can meditate on the significance of the empty tomb and all of the things the tomb may represent in our lives – our emptiness, the dark crevices we’d rather hide, etc. Take some time this Easter season to really contemplate the beauty of such symbols as they pertain to your life as a person of Christian faith.
Renew your devotion to the Holy Eucharist (Adoration, daily Mass)
There is no better way to pay homage to the Resurrected Jesus than to adore Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. If you have always been a faithful Mass-goer, try to add a day or two of daily Mass so that you can encounter Jesus present to you in this Sacrament. If that’s a challenge, consider a holy hour at a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, where you can also integrate time for solitude and prayer as you honor the gift and sacrifice of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Regardless of how your Lent turned out, you can still continue your intentions for change and spiritual growth during Eastertide. Lent isn’t about a temporary season of giving something up and fasting for a time, then resuming your old habits. Lent is about the metamorphosis of the Resurrection. It precedes the Resurrection precisely so that we will be ready to receive the Resurrected Christ into our hearts and lives.
Resurrection is about the journey to Heaven and progress, not perfection. Carry over your Lenten practices into Easter and beyond so that your interior life will flourish and become a fragrant and pleasing tribute to our beloved and resurrected Lord.