Now that we’re into the Easter season, are you looking back at your Lenten devotions and feeling like you want to go back? Many people find that Lent is a time of great spiritual growth, but just because it’s Easter doesn’t mean that you need to stop growing in your spiritual life. In fact, it’s a perfect time to take it to the next level!
Fr. Albert Haase, author of the new book Soul Training with the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, stopped by The Inner Life® to discuss what spiritual growth is, what it isn’t, and how we can be intentional about growing in grace this Easter season.
Receive God’s Grace
Growing in the spiritual life is not simply about doing the right things, saying the right prayers, or living a certain way. Faith, hope, and love are gifts that God gives to us. Spiritual growth starts with knowing that all grace is a gift from God, and we need to be open to receive it.
Fr. Haase said, “Spiritual growth does not happen by osmosis. Spiritual growth occurs because God offers a grace, and then I respond to that grace.”
But sometimes the graces God offers us don’t look the way we expect them to. It would be nice if God just graced us with the virtue of patience, but often it looks like an annoying situation that gives us the opportunity to practice patience. The key is to keep our eyes on Jesus, and ask Him for the grace to overcome any challenges we face.
“When we find ourselves challenged in certain situations, we really do need to keep in mind that God never abandons us,” Fr. Haase said. “Sometimes we’re tested, sometimes we’re stressed, and sometimes we’re asked to get out of the boat like Peter was and walk on water. We’ve just got to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
Respond to God’s Grace
As Fr. Haase said, spiritual growth begins with God offering a grace, but we need to respond to that grace. That’s where the training of the soul occurs.
“Soul training is all about responding to God’s grace,” he said. “And I respond to God’s grace in very practical ways. Such as loving, pardoning, hoping, bringing light, and bringing joy. We have to be intentional about it. We have to be willing to respond.”
Fr. Haase pointed out that just as we build our physical muscles in order to grow stronger, there are spiritual “muscles” we need to exercise in order to grow spiritually stronger. He pointed to the Peace Prayer of St. Francis as a way to exercise the spiritual muscles needed to respond to God’s grace.
“Just as when we go to a gym we exercise our muscles, in so many ways the Peace Prayer of St. Francis is a chance for us to exercise our spiritual muscles,” he said. “Specifically, those muscles of love, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy, consoling, understanding, giving. Those are all spiritual muscles, and oftentimes for most of us those muscles will atrophy if we don’t work at exercising them.”
Recognize Moments of Grace
Spiritual growth is about relationship. Your relationship with God, and also your relationship with those around you. God wants you to grow spiritually strong so you can spend eternity with Him in heaven. But He wants you to bring others to Him as well! Grace isn’t something to hoard, it’s something to be shared with others.
Fr. Haase noted that an important part of responding to God’s grace is recognizing situations when you can be an instrument of God’s grace to others. When someone is angry, be an instrument of peace. When someone is hateful, be an instrument of love.
“When you see a situation of darkness occurring, ask yourself: How can I bring light to that person or to that situation?” Fr. Haase suggested. “When you see somebody struggling with sadness or depression, how can you be an instrument of joy for them? This is what it’s really all about.”