Here a few steps that can help us draw closer to God.
1. Seek Humility
Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the senses: the great sanctifier. Humility is the first step to sanity. We can’t really see – much less love – anyone or anything else when the self is in the way. When we really believe in our own sinfulness and irrelevance, many other things become possible: repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others. These virtues are the basic stones of that other great Christian virtue: justice. No justice is ever achievable in a spider’s web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.
2. Cultivate Honesty
Absolute honesty is only possible for a humble person. The reason is simple. The most painful but important honesty is telling the truth to ourselves about our own intentions and our own actions. The reason honesty is such a powerful magnet is because it’s so uncommon.
Contemporary life is too often built on the marketing of half-truths and lies about who we are and what we want. Many of the lies are well-intentioned and not even very harmful — but they’re still lies. Scripture praises the honest woman and man because they’re like clean air in a room full of smoke. Honesty permits the mind to breathe and think clearly.
3. Seek To Be Holy
Holy does not mean nice or even good, although truly holy people are always good and often – though not always — nice. Holiness means “other than.” It’s what Scripture means when it tells us to be “in the world, but not of the world.” And this doesn’t just miraculously occur. We have to choose and search for holiness.
God’s ways are not our ways. Holiness is the art of seeking to commit all of our thoughts and actions to God’s ways. There’s no cookie-cutter model of holiness, just as piety can’t be reduced to a specific kind of prayer or posture. What’s essential is to love the world because God loves it and sent his Son to save it, but not to be captured by its habits and values, which are not godly.
Prayer is more than just that portion of the day when we advise God about what we need and what he should do. Real prayer is much closer to listening, and it’s closely tied to obedience. God surely wants to hear what we desire, love and fear because these things are part of our daily lives, and he loves us. But if we’re doing the talking, we can’t listen. Note too, that we can’t really pray without humility. Why? Because prayer demands us to lift up who we are and everything we experience and possess to God. Pride is too heavy to lift.
Scripture is the living Word of God. When we read God’s Word, we encounter God himself. But there’s more: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Georges Bernanos and so many others – these were deeply intelligent and powerful writers whose work nourishes the Christian mind and soul, while also inspiring the imagination. Reading also serves another, simpler purpose: It shuts out the noise that distracts us from fertile reflection. We can’t read The Screwtape Letters and take network television seriously at the same time. And that’s a very good thing.
By the way, if you do nothing else in 2019, read Tolkien’s wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle. It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime. And then read C.S. Lewis’ great religious science-fiction trilogy – Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. You’ll never look at our world in quite the same way again.
6. Believe and Act.
Nobody “earns” faith. It’s a free gift from God. But we must be willing and ready to receive it. We can discipline ourselves to be prepared. If we sincerely seek truth; if we desire things greater than this life has to offer; and if we leave our hearts open to the possibility of God — then one day we will believe, just as when we decide to love someone more deeply, and turn our hearts sincerely to the task, then sooner or later we usually will.
In the real world, feelings that last follow actions that have substance. The more sincere we are in our discipleship, the closer we will come to Jesus Christ. This is why the Emmaus disciples only recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the bread.” Only in acting in and on our faith, does our faith become fully real.
7. Nothing is more powerful than the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist in leading us to the God we seek
God makes himself available to us every week in the confessional, and every day in the sacrifice of the Mass. It makes little sense to talk about the “silence of God” when our churches are made silent by our own absence and indifference. We’re the ones with the cold hearts – not God.
He’s never outdone in his generosity. He waits for us in the quiet of the tabernacle. And he loves us and wants to be loved completely in return.