Last week we looked at the connection between surrender and strength. There are many obstacles in the way of our trustful surrender to our Lord. But I found that when I put my pride aside and humbly surrender to His will, the Lord gives me strength and a sense of peace.
The Fruits of a Life in Christ
“Let your door stand open to receive Him, unlock your soul to Him, offer Him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting light…”St. Ambrose
Isn’t it tough to go it alone? Seriously, how effective are we if we only rely on ourselves for the answers? I don’t know about you, but I tried that way for 23 years and it was very difficult. Having experienced a life where Christ is in charge, I have seen the other side and pray that I never have to fly solo again! Please consider your answers (as I have many times) to these important questions:
- Do I want to be a better spouse?
- Do I want to be a better parent to my children?
- Do I desire a stronger faith journey in the Catholic Church?
- Do I want to be a better child to my parents?
- Do I want to be a better friend?
- Can I be more involved in the community and helping others?
- Do I want to be a better leader at work?
As we ponder the questions above, it is probably safe to assume we said yes to each one. Now, think about surrendering yourself to Jesus and asking Him for help. We know what it is like to go it alone and if we are honest with ourselves, the results are not that great!
Giving ourselves to Him, letting our old selves go and placing Him first will change everything. We will receive from Christ His grace, guidance and love which in turn will positively affect our relationships with our wives, children, friends and co-workers. We will see our faith journeys catch fire as we begin to appreciate the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. Our appreciation of the Mass will grow exponentially as we more fully understand the gift of receiving the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and we are joined in intimate union with Him. We will be perceived differently as people begin to see Christ at work in us. Or we can continue to stubbornly go it alone.
Jesus Christ died on the Cross for us. He redeemed our sins. He loves us unconditionally. The only way to Heaven is through Him. What does He want in return? He simply asks for all of us: mind, body and soul. He wants us to place Him first in our lives – before family, friends, work… everything. Think about the list of questions above and place “Christ Inspired” in front of parent, spouse, child, friend, leader, etc. How can this not be desirable?
The choice to surrender to Christ and place Him first takes commitment, and the journey to get there is difficult. I know a lot of good, smart people who have been deeply moved by an emotional meeting/weekend, inspirational book or personal tragedy to make this commitment, only to lapse back into “me first” behaviors weeks later. It can happen to anyone. This commitment has to be firm and will require sincerity, diligence, and sacrifice.
Here are some practical actions I have learned from some great Catholic role models which I utilize to help put Christ and His will first in my life:
- Start and end our day with prayer. Speak to Christ through prayer and ask Him to lead us. Pray that His will be done and offer up everything to Him. Consider this prayer, “Lord, please make me a channel for your will. Help me be humble, selfless and able to discern your plan for my life. I love you and thank you for every blessing. I ask you to lead me and guide my actions today and every day.”
- Follow Mary’s example. Our Blessed Mother is the greatest example of trusting God and her “yes” should inspire us to do the same. Say a daily Rosary to invoke her help. Pope St. John Paul II reminds us, “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!”
- Educate ourselves. Study our Faith, read the Bible, the Catechism or a short meditation each day. I highly recommend In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez, Jesus-Shock by Peter Kreeft, Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron and He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.
- Become passionate about the Eucharist. Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him? Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week. St. Francis de Sales wrote,“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
- Pursue Joy, not Happiness. Father Luke Ballman, former Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, gave a wonderful talk to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association a few years ago in which he described the pursuit of happiness as the pursuit of the things of this world. We think we are seeking happiness in the bigger house, nicer car, better job, bigger paycheck, but do these things really bring happiness? His point was that all happiness must be preceded by joy and that all joy is Christ-inspired! Seek out and surrender your heart to Christ to find joy… and you will also find happiness.
You may be doing all of these things – and much more. Thank you for showing us the way by your example. This is certainly not the definitive list, but these actions help keep me focused on Christ’s will most of the time and help me find my way back to Him when I get lost. As you consider the contents of this article and how it speaks to you, please be mindful that you can’t simply “add Jesus to your life” and share control with Him. He requires all of us, all the time.
In return for our trustful surrender, He will fill us with His strength, His love, His peace and shape us into the fathers, husbands, friends, leaders and Catholics we always wanted to be. With His strength within us, we will find ourselves often giving to others and sharing our new-found selfless love to the people in our lives. Reflect on this article, then ask yourself: What do we really lose by surrendering to Christ? Then, ask yourself: What do I lose by failing to surrender to Christ?
I will close with a wonderful and relevant prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Receive, Lord, my entire freedom.
Accept the whole of my memory,
my intellect and my will.
Whatever I have or possess,
it was you who gave it to me;
I restore it to you in full,
and I surrender it completely
to the guidance of your will.
Give me only love of you
together with your grace,
and I am rich enough
and ask for nothing more.
Let’s remember to pray for each other that we will achieve what the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Image: Photography © by Paul Johnson
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