Did you notice? In five months we will be celebrating the birth of our Savior! Two thousand years ago, Mary, Jesus’ young mother, was experiencing the babe in her womb growing and stirring. She, herself, was showing signs of growth and her appearance was changing. The miracle of the Nativity was approaching.
How about us? Shouldn’t we be showing signs of growth, an increase in holiness, over these next five months? We can find some encouraging words in today’s liturgy reading from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (4:8-10), telling us five things:
- We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
- perplexed, but not driven to despair;
- persecuted, but not abandoned;
- struck down, but not destroyed;
- always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
It’s always helpful to pursue growth knowing that we can be hopeful having Jesus on our side. One way to grow spiritually is to seek new forms of prayer. I recommend little changes at a time. There are many resources available, especially at RENEW International. The Liturgy of the Hours offers prayers for different times during the day. So many materials are available these days online or in libraries.
Our materialistic society may not encourage self-denial, but we all know our society has many imperfections. Fasting from a favorite food indulgence for a day can be a good idea. What that food would cost could be donated to a food kitchen or other charity. Growth involves change. Sometimes change makes us uncomfortable, but that is not necessarily negative. Little sacrifices are little growth steps.
Joining a faith-sharing group in your parish can spur personal growth and encourage others at the same time. New dimensions of spirituality can be discovered and fostered. Sharing can lead to growth.
Retreat houses offer days of reflection and other programs. From my experience, God can speak to your heart when you depart from your routine and enjoy a retreat day or weekend away from your normal surroundings. Growth also involves practice, so good and new ideas need to be repeated and nurtured.
Try attending a Mass or receiving the sacrament of reconciliation at a time or place that is not your usual choice. Any time we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist or in the sacrament of forgiveness, we can grow!
There are temptations in our world that are very subtle and often encourage selfishness and even laziness. To help us resist temptations, we know we are gifted with true faith in Christ, and so we might want to pray and meditate with certain inspiring Bible passages. I am listing four relevant suggestions and will quote the fifth: Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 2:2; and Ephesians 4:15:
Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the
If we are going to grow closer to Jesus over these next five months, our overall physical appearance will not change as Mary’s did; but there is a good chance we will be more joyful and peaceful as we prepare to celebrate his birth at Christmas. If you agree, smile and “Gimme five!”
Photograph by Ryan Johns on Unsplash.
Scripture passage is from The CatholicStudy Bible: New American Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.