We Must Do to Become

Christian salvation is far more than a juridical proclamation of innocence: it is relational. Our salvation is an ontological union with the Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. This union with Christ imparts to us our destiny in Christ. St. Paul writes of our union in Christ:

Therefore, if you were raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Think of the things above, not upon the things on earth. For you died [together with Christ] and your life has been hidden together with Christ in God. Whenever Christ, who is your life, might be revealed, then also you will be revealed together with him in glory (Col 3: 1 – 4).

Our lives are to correspond to this reality, and we are to “Put to death, therefore, the ‘earthly’ aspects of your life: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5). This list is not limited to these sins — St. Paul expects us to get the idea.

We are to have an additional response which requires positive action. As we are to eliminate corrupting habits, we also are to acquire new habits, new virtues:

Therefore, clothe yourselves, as the elect of God holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And over all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfection. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which you were called in one body. And become thankful (Col 3: 12 – 15).

Clothing is to be seen, observed. How we clothe ourselves reveals a lot about who we are, what we do, and many other things as about our personalities. At baptism we put on our white baptismal garment — we are united to Christ, cleansed and given new life in him. But we are not limited to this garment. St. Paul states we are to clothe ourselves in all the above listed Christ-like attributes, and others as well. These are indwelling, abiding qualities / virtues that are, again, to be habitual. This “spiritual clothing” is to be worn daily, these attributes are to displayed daily that Christ may be manifested before all and all creation.

The Christian, spiritual life is a struggle at times. So many times it seems that it is nothing more than ten steps forward, nine steps backward. But we must press on to our goal.

We must admit that this struggle resides in our minds. St. Paul declares this in Romans 12: 2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Elsewhere, in Philippians 2: 5 we are instructed that our mindset is to be like our Lord’s: “Let this mindset be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

Our thought patterns are habitual. Patterns of thought may well be entrenched, but they can be dug out, uprooted. We have Christ in us, and the Holy Spirit, and the Father abiding in us, and we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. We are empowered by God to change our thought processes. We have everything we need to bring about these mandatory changes. Additionally, we are empowered by Sacraments, Scripture, and each other. St. Paul gives us this, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col 3:16). For the Scriptures are of the Holy Spirit, and will be used by the Holy Spirit to transform our wardrobe. Briefly, this points to the practice of Lectio Divina. With this discipline a portion of Scripture is meditated upon, prayed about, and memorized. This rumination moves the Scripture from eyes and mind to the heart, and from the heart to arms, hands, legs and feet. Scripture becomes action and habit in life. But, we must act and put all into practice.

Here is an axiom: “We must do to become!” We cannot wait for feelings to come upon us. We cannot wait for some special moment, or the right circumstances. We must DO kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. We are to BECOME thankful by giving thanks to God at all times, in all places and in all circumstances. (“Give thanks in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” — 1 Thes 5: 18.) We are to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE to bring Christ-like virtues in our lives that, in turn, Christ is revealed by us to the world around us.

God is very willing to join himself to our practices to form Christ in us, and to make it his that he may receive the glory for it. Yet, the degree to which Christ is formed in us is entirely dependent upon us! We read this in 1Thes 5: 23, 24:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and keep your spirit, soul, and body sound and blameless in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who is calling you is faithful, and he will do it.

The verbs in italics are in the optative verbal from of Greek: St. Paul expresses a wish that may not conform to reality. In other words, St. Paul is stating that this ideal may not happen in our lives. But IF we put into practice Christ-like actions, we can be sure that “the one who is calling you is faithful, and he will do it!” Thus, let us DO in order that we may BECOME!

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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