If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Knowing Him Better

. . . I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

Do you ever find yourself wanting to know God better? Would you like God's word to come alive for you? Would you like your time in prayer to be consistently rewarding? These following suggestions may help you revitalize your personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

1. Regularly read and study the Sacred Scriptures. There is no shortcut to a deepening relationship with Jesus without a growing familiarity with God’s word. No wonder the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us, In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength . . . In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them" (CCC 104). Thus, the Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (CCC 133).

Consecrate for yourself time each day to read God’s word – even if it is only ten minutes. Follow this link to my suggested reading plan through the Bible in about a year.

 2. As you prepare to read the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit’s illumination. “Prayer” the Church counsels us, “is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God . . . The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer" (CCC 2725).

I often use the prayer St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians as a template for my prayer before I read the Scripture: "(I pray) that the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe" (1:18‑19). Sometimes I will add the psalmist’s prayer, "Lord, open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teachings" (Psalm 119:18).

3.  Become a scribe. The average adult reads approximately 200 words per minute, but can write only 30 words per minute. The difference is the basis for an important point: Hand copying the Bible into a notebook is, in many ways, like walking along a road instead of driving. We can see much more of the scenery by the roadway as we walk than while we are clipping along at 55 miles per hour. Forcing our minds to slow to what it might consider a snail's pace helps us focus more clearly on God's word ‑ letter by letter, comma by comma.

4. Memorize God’s word. The Scripture itself encourages us to hide God's word in our heart (Psalm 119:11). Anyone who is able to read the Bible is able to memorize portions of it. My wife and I taught 6th grade faith formation children for years, and each class was able to memorize passages of Scripture during the course of our time together. We also have met men and women in their 70s and 80s who memorized large swaths of Bible texts, including several members of the adult Bible study group I teach each Monday evening at our parish.

The study of God's word, bathed in prayer and supplemented by memorization can significantly enhance our relationship with Christ from what might be rote and form into a renewed sense of vibrancy and passion. Indeed, there is precious truth in the statement, "learn to savor how good the Lord is" (Psalm 34:9).

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