Is our primary objective in life to become like Jesus? Of course. How do we do it? Well, ask another one that will take less than fifty books to answer!
But there is an important way which can take us well down the road. Moreover, it is a particular and integrated part of the Catholic tradition: meditation.
Not any kind of meditation - and certainly none of the kinds imported from eastern religions such as Hinduism. It is a Christian and Catholic traditional way hallowed by time and the efforts of saints co-operating with God's graces. These include such people as Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Therese of Avila and many others. This article discusses this powerful approach to prayer. (A fuller discussion can be found in "The Keys To Growing Through Christian Meditation" at http://www.christianword.co.uk)
Meditating On What?
One of the greatest expressions of God's love for us is that he has provided for us a book which reveals much about himself, the way to salvation and what he desires of each of us. Most of all, perhaps, there lies within it knowledge of how great is his personal love for each of us.
That book is, of course, the Bible. Both the Old and, especially the New Testament are there entirely for our benefit. Indeed, in recent times the Catholic Church has drawn attention on several major ocassion to the importance of Scripture and of the need for us to avail ourselves of it.
Thus, for example, the Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation (promulgated by Pope Paul VI, 1965) stresses that ... the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks to them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.
This latter point is of particular relevance here: the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Moreover, after the Second Vatican Council Catholics have had made available to them several translations from the original languages of the Bible. For example, we have the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible. For those who do develop a love of, and interest in Scripture, these are all available with explanatory footnotes and introductions to the various books of the Bible which put them in historical, cultural and spiritual context.
But it is sad that not many more Catholics seem to make use of what is available to them through Scripture. The saints mentioned above, and many, many others, spent time meditating on the sacred word of God because it really did reveal God to them. This is especially important for Christians when meditating on the New Testament. Indeed, Ignatius of Loyola especially has highlighted the way in which we meet Jesus in a new way through the gospels. God can reach out to us in different ways when we properly reflect on the word he has given to us.
We do buy the Bible but we seem to make little use of it.. Why?
Why Meditation Is Important
Probably the major reason is that people often find the Bible to be boring. It is of little use to tell people that it is not boring if that is their experience. There are many reasons for this impression. However, the purpose here is not to explore these but to suggest that meditation on God's word in Scripture is the major way to discover that it is anything but boring - in fact, to find that it is the most exciting book every written. And that it is a key to unlocking our further spiritual growth.
We cannot go into a proper instruction here on how to meditate on Scripture, but we can make two major points which may encourage the reader to explore further. (e.g. through the present writer's The Keys To Christian Meditation
The first is that Scripture really is God's word to us. The Catholic Church does teach that every word of Scripture is divinely inspired. Thus theDogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation says it teaches without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings... If God did this for our benefit, the least we can do is make the effort to investigate it.
But secondly, we are missing the whole point if we seek to undertake that for ourselves. This is one, if not the main reason why people find the Bible boring. When we read the Bible, and most of all when we meditate on it, we need to ask its Author to guide us. That is the Holy Spirit, and it is he who will show us that his book is anything but boring.
Let us understand clearly what this is concerned with. We are not talking about that kind of divine revelation which properly belongs to the Church. We are opening ourselves to those personal communications of the Spirit to which so many of the saints have opened themselves. God communicates with his people in all kinds of ways, but this is one of the most important. And so many of us miss it. We may not have lost the plot but reading the Book certainly helps us to put it up front. And meditating on it does more than merely keep it there. Meditation on Scripture has the potential to bring us into a new experiencial knowledge of God and a much deeper understanding of our life of faith.
Short note about the author
Anthony Keith Whitehead
Over twenty-three years in Christian healing teaching writing ministries. Wide range of secular employments before being called by the Lord into full time independent ministry in 1987. With his wife Iris he has ministered both in the UK and USA. Has written several books on healing meditation and various aspects of spirituality. Formal qualifications include: B.A. M.Phil. Cambridge University Certificate in Religious Studies Post Grad Cert in Education.
Web Site: http://www.christianword.co.uk