How do you grow spiritually? Or is there even such a thing as spiritual growth?
If I asked you to think of a hero, who would first come to mind? Would it be a comic book superhero? A firefighter, policeman, or soldier? Perhaps someone you met?
We usually see heroes rescuing those in trouble or fighting for a noble cause.
Our admiration of heroes grows when they:
- Fight for what we value.
- Perform difficult feats.
- Persevere in the face of opposition or threat.
- Sacrifice something of value to them.
Most people don’t think of themselves as heroes. Even heroes often don’t think of themselves that way. Rather, they see themselves as people who only did what had to be done in the situation.
I believe there are many unrecognized heroes of a different sort living among us, today. You might be one of them, and if not, you can be.
The quality that defines God’s heroes is love. Godly love isn’t an expression of emotion or positive thinking. Christ-like love is both a gift (one that God bestows readily) and an act of will.
The apostle Paul describes this kind of love in 1 Corinthians 13. What makes a godly hero? The true Christian disciple is:
- Satisfied with what he has and not jealous of others.
- Authentic and doesn’t act for show.
- Not easily offended, and he is able to let go of injuries and not brood over them.
Heroic disciples are self-controlled and seek the good. They value and uphold the truth.
I don’t think any of these qualities match our usual expectations. Instead, we tend to take these characteristics for granted.
Godly heroes are resilient and persevere, not only in one situation or for a particular cause, but day after day. Here’s what Paul has to say:
It [love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13: 7-8)
Yep. Love-heroes are no weaklings. They’re persistent and courageous, but they express it in a way that doesn’t call attention to themselves.
As is often the case with spiritual truths, God turns what we conceive as heroic on its ear. While we often think more highly of people because of the things they say, know, or do, Paul tells us that no matter how spectacular we may appear to others, if we act without love, it means and gains nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3).
So, what does an everyday hero look like?
- She’s the mother who selflessly cares for a child who is sick or disabled.
- He’s the father who maintains boundaries even when it makes him unpopular with his son or daughter.
- She’s the person who responds with kindness when treated poorly.
- He’s the one who works tirelessly for God’s kingdom without recognition or the aid of others.
The list is endless.
Let us be heroes today. Let us love God and others with everything within us, regardless of the opposition or cost.
There is a lot to discourage us, today. If you’re a Catholic disciple of Christ, it can appear even worse, at least on the surface. We find ourselves facing increasing hostility, feel pressured to compromise our beliefs, and see “believers” all around us who profess faith in Christ but fail to live it.
How do we stay positive and faithful in the midst of all this? One way is to recognize the spiritual reality of God’s love, power, presence, and promise of eternal life. We also can look to the healing and vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit. We gain access to both of these through prayer, Bible reading and study, fellowship with other believers, and partaking in the Sacraments.
Another way I find encouragement is through reading and writing stories, poems, and reflections about God and the Christian life. By encouragement, I mean not only feelings of affirmation, but also words that challenge me toward godliness.
That gives you the background and motivation behind writing my first book: Love Did It: Stories, Poems, and More to Inspire Everyday Catholic Disciples. Within the book, I’ve included poems and reflections that are both a product of, and inspiration for, my Catholic faith. There are also stories about everyday disciples facing struggles and trials and how they dealt with them. I’ve even included some dramatic sketches based on the Gospels.
I encourage you to take a look at Love Did It. It’s available in both Kindle and print formats on Amazon, and it’s favorably priced.
The Lord be with you, and may he strengthen you on your journey.