God wants to manifest himself in each one of us. He joins us with the people of God throughout the world who are seeking to follow him with their whole hearts, to serve him and to serve the Church.
The Lord has instructed us to “be like him.” How do we achieve this goal? We can’t do this on our own, but by experiencing the power in our lives as the Lord promised in Acts 1:8:
You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
With confident assurance, we look for the power of God to work within us. Paul wrote about this to the Thessalonians:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and [with] much conviction. (1 Thess. 1:2-5).
How is God’s power released? As the priest quotes the Last Supper words of Jesus, using that Scripture passage during the consecration, the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. In that same way and by the power of the same Spirit, quoting God's Word releases great power when we speak it.
The release of God's power is not dependent on our feelings or our faith, yet we know that our faith is important. In Mark 9:23, Jesus tells the father of the epileptic demoniac, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” In the next verse the father responds, "“I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Our faith grows as we keep our eyes on Jesus and his promises and not on how we feel. We act with expectant faith and anticipate results with the measure of faith we have. Just as Jesus used the few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, we can expect him to take the faith we have and use it to release his power.
In the transformation of our lives, it is not possible for us to become like Jesus except through the power of God. It is his power that changes lives. What can we do to cooperate with God in the release of his power in our lives?
- We learn about him by studying his Word. As we study Scripture, our spiritual antennas alert us to verses that reveal his nature. Then we strive to imitate him. Learning scriptures by speaking them aloud reinforces them in our minds as well as in our hearts. It helps us get comfortable speaking the words of God and realizing we are living them. Then we can go deeper by sharing with others the scripture verses how they challenge us to imitate Jesus. We also learn his ways by studying the lives of deeply committed Christians, holy people who have gone before us. Within our Catholic faith, we have the lives of the saints and the great teachings of the Doctors of the Church to mentor us.
- A close personal relationship with Jesus, through prayer, transforms us. As we spend time with him, praying and listening, we soon sense him making his will known to us. He communicates with us directly in prayers of all kind: Formal prayers of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalms, or directed meditations. Regardless of the form we use, the important thing is that we do it, and do it every day, with a time of silence so we can hear the Lord speak to us.
- We know God works directly in our lives through the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12:4-11. We need the power of God that is available through the spiritual gifts, which the Lord freely gives for the building up of his body. We need those gifts working in our lives as well as the lives of others if we are to be transformed to be like Jesus. We can expect God to provide all of the necessary gifts that we need to serve him in whatever way we are called to serve. Different forms of service requires different gifts. "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people just as he chooses." (1 Cor 12:11) We can confidently respond to the Lord's call to serve, knowing he will provide the gifts we need.
- We need to share our lives with others. We share more than scripture with them; we share our lives as Christian brothers and sisters serving each other any way we can. We need them, and they need us to get to heaven. When we serve them, we serve God, and we receive from God the good things he gives us through them.
- We need the power that the Holy Spirit releases through the sacraments of our church, especially the Eucharist. God has provided his power to us through his Church. If we don't use it, we restrict the power of God that is available to transform our lives.
We need God's power working in our individual lives, the lives of our families and in our church communities. God offers us this generous gift. It is our job to appropriate that power and to use it.
How can we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to transform our lives?
Copyright 2015 Nancy Ward
Photo: "Foto Katolik" by Różaniec (2006) via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.
About the Author
Nancy Ward authored Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies (and the DVD) and contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She loves to share her conversion story and give evangelization workshops and retreats equipping others to share their faith. She facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers, Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique Group, serves on their Board, and speaks at writers’ conferences. Learn more at JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com.