Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Planning Your Way to Heaven, Part II: Seek First the Kingdom

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33

To be a success at anything, we need to prioritize our lives and make sure that we are doing something each and every day that helps us attain our goal. We know this is true whether we are working toward a degree, or toward a business, or toward weight loss. However, when it comes to the goal of getting into Heaven, most of us pencil God in after everything else has been done. Prayers become chores, chores that get put off for another day if we have time for them.  That has to change if we want to get serious about getting into Heaven.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. - 1 Cor. 10:31

Our lives need to become a prayer.  In everything that we do, we need to do it for God.  Whether we are eating or drinking, sleeping, working, or playing, we need to be doing it for God. For example, if we are a housewife and we are cleaning the house, we need to offer up our housecleaning to God. We need to clean as if Jesus were coming to dinner that night, because quite honestly He is. Every work we do, if done for the love of God, becomes blessed and sanctified.  It becomes a means that God can use to bring us and those who know us closer to Him. If we are cooking, let us cook as if we were cooking for Jesus and put into the recipe every ounce of our love and devotion to Him.

If we are playing, let's make sure that the games we are playing are games that we would be comfortable playing if Jesus were in the room. Jesus does not mind us having fun. Laughter, after all, is a sign of joy and joy comes from the Holy Spirit.  All animals play, and play is an important technique the brain uses to practice life skills.  I will go so far as to say that it is okay to play war games as the strategies we learn when playing such games can help us to practice strategies to overcome temptation.  However, because it is the way that the brain uses to practice skills we need to be very careful the kind of practice we are doing. Are we making sure that we fight only when all other tactics to resolve the conflict have been tried first? Are we making certain that the cause we are fighting is just? Are we fighting to defend and protect others or are we taking advantage of the weak and helpless for worldly gain? Is the game we are playing helping us to develop relationships with others?  In other words, before playing a game of any kind we really need to ask ourselves this question: How does this game help me to become a better servant of God?  Would Jesus approve of this game?
Anything we do that is not inherently sinful or directly opposed to His will can be offered to Him as an act of love.  In this way, the whole of our lives becomes a prayer to God, a conversation with Him that never ends. When we find ourselves doing something we don't particularly enjoy doing, like house cleaning, we can offer that up as a small sacrifice to Him and by doing it with joy make atonement for our own sins and for those of others.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. - John 6:54

We also need to be sure that we are making time to receive the sacraments as often as they are made available to us.  If you have daily Mass nearby, make an appointment with God to be there. If it were a million dollars being offered you would find a way to be there, and Jesus is so much greater than a million dollars.  It may require some sacrifices on your part to get there, but Jesus waits there to speak to you.  He wants to feed you and to speak with you.  You have everything to gain by going.  If you still aren't sure it's worth the effort, think about it like this: Your body needs food regularly to survive. Your soul needs food to fight the daily battles against temptation and to stand strong during trials. The Eucharist is food for the soul.  How strong would your body be if you were to go without food for 6 days out of 7?

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. - James 5:16

If you are not going to confession on a regular basis (at least once a month), now is the time to begin. It is difficult to humble ourselves to the Lord and to admit that we have made mistakes, but until we are willing to admit that we need help the Lord cannot begin to remove the chains that bind us to our sins.  Most people don't like going to the dentist, but until you go your teeth cannot be fixed. I recommend going to the same confessor each time, as that priest will begin to see patterns of behavior and is then better equipped to help you overcome the problems that lead you into sin.

Seeking first the Kingdom of God means putting God first in everything and making sure that everything we do is done for Him.  It is simple, though not easy. It means changing our priorities, the way we live, and the way we think.  It means being honest with ourselves about the times we fail to put God first, and then making a firm resolution to do things differently the next time. It means avoiding those things that lead us away from God. 

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