The ultimate purpose of our life is to grow to know, love and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the real purpose of our existence. He gives meaning to all that happens in our lives—our joys and sorrows, successes and failures our life and death. Our Lady is always close to Jesus. The saints emphasize that Our Lady is the shortcut to the heart of God.
The following are ten short suggestions how we can grow daily in Friendship with Jesus and Mary, His Mother, so as to be happy in this life as well as the life to come!
1. Avoid Sin
The reality of sin is the chief stumbling block on our way to friendship with God. In one of the meditations in the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius says that we should be ready to die before giving in to mortal sin. The motto of Saint Dominic Savio, before his first Communion, was, “Death before sin.” Unanimously, the martyrs chose death over sin. The Church is already being persecuted and we could be called to the glory of martyrdom. May God’s grace triumph in us!
2. Know God
We cannot love God if we do not know Him. Best way to get to know Him? By reading and meditating on the Word of God. Saint Jerome stated: “Ignorance of the Word of God is ignorance of Christ.”
When reading the scriptures, use the method of Lectio Divina that Pope Benedict suggested in one of his documents on the word of God:
- Lectio (read),
- meditacio (meditate and think deeply about God)
- contemplacio (imagine that you are with God).
- Oracio (talk to God)
- accio (put into practice what you have learned.
As a result of living out this method of prayer that we call Lectio Divina, the end result will be “transformacio”—transformation. As Saint Paul says: “It is no longer I who lives but it is Christ who lives in me.”
3. Lives of the Saints
Get into the habit of reading the lives of the saints. The saints were God’s friends, confidants, as well as heroes.
The Catechism teaches us that the saints can help us in many ways, but especially two:
- 1) Power of intercession—they can pray for us as well as present our prayers to God.
- 2) Examples to imitate—They were like as born in sin and sinners, but through the help of God’s grace they overcame human weakness and lived lives of heroic virtue as we are all called to do! Saint Ignatius of Loyola received many graces on his path of conversion by reading the lives of the saints.
4. Live in God’s Presence
A secret of many saints in growing in Friendship with Jesus is the daily effort to live in God’s presence. We must become more keenly aware of the fact of God’s omnipresence—He is everywhere in the universe. Saint Paul reminds us of this: “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Brother Lawrence insisted that striving to live constantly in the Presence of God is a sure way to holiness. Saint Teresa of Avila affirmed this truth by asserting that we sin because forget about the presence of God.
Related to living in the presence of God is a daily effort to imitate Christ and His Mother Mary. One of the most famous books ever written was the Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. Our daily aspiration and yearning should be to imitate both Jesus and Mary. The youth used to wear a wrist-band with the four letters WWJD— meaning, “What would Jesus do?” A great question! Let us accept the challenge.
WWMD?—Let us add to it: what would Mary do? May we always have both Jesus and Mary before our eyes as our models!
6. The Penitential Life
Even though it goes against the grain of the flesh and our fallen human nature we should try to live a penitential lifestyle. If we really love Jesus then we should be willing to sacrifice ourselves for love of Him and the salvation of immortal souls; read the lives of the saints as our models and examples. Jesus Himself reminds us: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny himself, take up His cross and follow me.”
If you are not in the habit of practicing penance then start with something that is small and build on it! Athletes start small, build up their wind and will-power and keep adding more. We are all called to be athletes for Christ, to run the race and receive the merited crown which is the eternal glory of heaven. A life of ease, leisure and laziness does not harmonize with the following of Christ! Upon entering a Carmelite cell there is a cross without the corpus on it. Why? Because the Carmelite nun is called to mount the cross and live a life of denial for love of her mystical spouse, Jesus the Lord.
7. Be Merciful and Learn to Forgive
It is impossible to live in this life without being hurt or wounded by others. There are two reactions to being hurt by others: revenge and bitterness or forgiveness and mercy. If we want to be pleasing to Jesus and Mary, best to choose the hard path of mercy and forgiveness Jesus challenges us: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”
The English poet Alexander Pope reiterates the same theme: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” A key element in forgiveness is to do it right away. The Word of God reminds us: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This is especially pertinent for husbands and wives in the married life.
8. Seek to Serve Others
Do not seek to be served; rather, seek out opportunities to be of service and to serve others. Saint Paul once again reminds us: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.” The Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity encourages us to do the same in a challenging short statement: “Give until it hurts!”
Of course looking up at Jesus on the cross and contemplating His wounds is the most sublime example of giving; He gave all even up to the last drop of His Precious Blood for love of you and for love of me! Either we choose a Christocentric life of service or an egocentric life of self-glorification. Once a Protestant Pastor chimed in with these words: “It is either theology or me-ology!” Read Mt 25:31-46—in this powerful passage you have the Corporal works of mercy listed. Which one of these Corporal works of mercy do you think God is challenging you to live out right now?
One of the most pleasing sentiments that can flow from the human heart is that of thanksgiving. The Psalmist commands us frequently: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.” At the Last Supper Jesus took bread and gave thanks. Actually the Greek word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” How much Jesus suffered after healing ten lepers and only one came back to render Him thanksgiving. (Lk. 17:1-9) Shakespeare in Macbeth offers his words of wisdom on ingratitude: “More painful than a serpent’s tooth is that of an ungrateful child.” The famous medieval writer Meister Eckhart puts it succinctly: “If the only prayer we ever did were that of thanksgiving to God that would be sufficient.”
Therefore, it is not surprising that Saint Ignatius of Loyola stated that the essence of sin is ingratitude. May God fill our hearts with an overflowing expression of gratitude.
10. Learn to Walk with Mary
In the prayers we say to conclude the most Holy Rosary, the Hail Holy Queen, we pray: “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope…” In the midst of the trials, afflictions, uncertainties and insecurities of life, immersed in times of moral confusion and political upheaval, submerged in times of war, suffering and constant bloodshed, we must lift up our eyes with great hope and trust toward the Star of the Sea.
This beautiful image and poem penned by the mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard, encourages us to trust that Our Lady is there for us to help us through the storms of life and make it safely to heaven. Therefore, as a pilgrim on your journey to heaven do not walk alone. Walk with Mary, talk to Mary, imitate Mary and love Mary. Indeed she will be your life, your sweetness and your hope.”