ARE you still with me? It’s now Day 5 of our retreat, and I am certain many of you are struggling in these first days to stay committed. But take that, perhaps, as a sign that you might need this retreat more than you realize. I can say that this is the case for myself.
Today, we continue expanding the vision of what it means to be a Christian and who we are in Christ…
Two things happen when we are baptized. The first is that we are cleansed of all sin, particularly original sin. The second is that we become a new creation in Christ.
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
In fact, the Catechism teaches that a believer is essentially “divinized” cf. CCC, 1988 by sanctifying grace through faith and Baptism.
Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1997
This free gift of grace, then, enables us to become “partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” CCC, 1996
So it is clear that becoming a Christian is not a matter of joining a club, but becoming an entirely new person. But this is not automatic. It requires our collaboration. It requires that we co-operate with the Holy Spirit in order for grace to transform us more and more into the image of God in which we were created. As St. Paul taught:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… (Rom 8:29)
What does this mean? It means that the Father wishes to transform our “inner man”, as St. Paul calls it, more and more into Jesus. It does not mean that God wishes to erase your unique personality and gifts, but rather, to embue them with the supernatural life of Jesus, who is love incarnate. As I often say to young people when I speak in schools: “Jesus did not come to take away your personality; He came to take away your sin that marrs who you really are!”
Thus, the goal of Baptism is not only your salvation, but to bring about within you the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Gal 5:22 Do not think of these virtues as high ideals or unachievable standards. Rather, see them as whom God intended you to be from the very start.
When you are standing there in a store to pick out a toaster, do you buy the floor model that is dented, missing buttons, and without a manual? Or do you pick up the new one in a box? Of course you do. You’re paying good money, and why should you settle for less. Or would you be happy with the broken one that when you get home, goes up in a fizzle of smoke?
Why is it then that we settle for less when it comes to our spiritual lives? Many of us remain broken because no one has given us the vision to be anymore than that. You see, Baptism is the gift that enables us, you could say, to choose which toaster we want—to become holy, or to simply stick with the broken floor model. But listen, God is not satisified with your heart being dented, your soul missing buttons, and your mind wandering without clear direction. Look at the Cross and see how radically God expressed His unhappiness with our brokeness! This is why St. Paul says,
…be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. (Rom 12:2)
You see, it’s not automatic. Transformation comes when we begin to renew our minds by God’s word, by the teachings of our Catholic Faith, and conforming ourselves to the Gospel.
As I’ve said already in this retreat, it is as though this new interior man or woman is conceived within us at Baptism. It has yet to be nurtured by the Sacraments, formed by the Word of God, and strengthened through prayer so that we truly participate in God’s life, becoming holy, and “salt and light” to others in need of hope and salvation.
[May he] grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph 3:17)
Brothers and sisters, it is not enough to be a baptized cradle Catholic. It is not even enough to go to Mass every Sunday. We are not partakers in a country club, but in the divine nature!
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity. (Heb 6:1)
And we talked about the path of this maturity yesterday: by entering into the “The Good Death.” As the Catechism teaches:
The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. —CCC, n. 2015 (“ascesis and mortification” meaning “self-denial”)
And so now it is time for us to go deeper in this retreat, to begin to examine the practical ways in which we can strengthen and foster the inner self, and begin to actualize “the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.” Let Our Blessed Mother, then, repeat to you what St. Paul said to his spiritual children:
My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you. (Gal 4:19)
SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE
The Father not only intends to cleanse us of sin through Baptism, but to help us become a new creation, re-made in the image of His Son.
Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor 4:16)
Thanks for your support of this full-time apostolate.
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