So often I have observed people who have just begun to taste the goodness of God stagnate in their journey because they do not flee their old way of life. With the little they have received they wish to feed the ravenous multitude, not realising that there is still more of the World in them than there is Christ. Because there is still so much of the World in them, they fail to see the chains that still bind them, and thus they never become free to let Christ live fully in them. Thus they stagnate, or even backslide in their faith, and slowly they become absorbed back into the World.
In my life I have found that the best apostles (think of Pope Francis) to the world are those who are truly in this world and not of it. To be able to bring light into the darkness, we need to first be people of the Light. And this is not something that happens simply because we believe – this requires a lived commitment to die to everything in our life that prevents Christ from possessing every part of us.
We are all mired deep in spiritual quicksand. Prior to conversion, we are oblivious to our danger. But once our eyes are opened, we must quickly assess our situation and recognise our weakness against sin and temptation. We must then have the courage and determination to flee without looking back. With this we give Christ a firm foothold in our hearts.
If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell. – Matthew 5:29-30
BE SET APART.
Even when we have ‘dropped our nets’ to follow Christ, we have still only given Him a small foothold in our soul. The greater part of our heart and mind still does not acknowledge Christ as Lord. Becoming a disciple means allowing Christ to continue to conquer the territory of our souls until He possesses us entirely. God calls us to be a people set apart – that means that He will continue to separate us from every attachment that stands in the way of our union with Him.
We all have different weaknesses. It takes God’s grace, self-awareness, honesty and courage to recognise and acknowledge what the Enemy’s best weapons against us are. And each time one of the Enemy’s strongholds in our souls is revealed, we are given a choice: To surrender it to Christ or to withhold it from Christ. If we choose to surrender, we make Jesus Lord, and He rushes to pour out rich spiritual treasures into our newly empty hands. If we choose to withhold from Christ, we will begin to lose the ground that we have already gained.
Oftentimes we struggle to let go of things because we fail to see them in the light of eternity. We cling to habits, luxuries, hobbies and people because we fail to see their true worth. Everything finds its value in Christ. Apart from Him, nothing is.
No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 10: 37-39
Jesus was completely set apart from the World. He belonged fully to the Father and his obedience was complete – so complete that he was able to lay down his life. It was because Jesus was set apart that he could also be the Father’s Love incarnate.
It is only to the extent that Christ lives in us that our lives incarnate Him. Apart from Christ, we cannot bring people to him. We are so finite that we are woefully short of compassion and patience to forgive and love those who wound us. We are so hopelessly egoistic that we find it impossible to lay down our lives for others. Even with our best intentions, we inadvertently live our lives around our selves. Even our desire to evangelise and minister ends up feeding our own ego. We fail to see our shadows and become more preoccupied with the faults of others instead of keeping our own sins constantly before our eyes.
Only one who has died to himself/herself can live for Christ and live for others. Only one who has sold everything to buy the pearl of great price can bring God’s Kingdom to others. Only one who has been crucified in Christ can be Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. The life that I am now living, subject to the limitation of human nature, I am living in faith, faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. -Galations 2:20
When we have died to ourselves, then we can become Christ’s presence in the world without losing ourselves. When we have become set apart for God’s Kingdom, then we can become powerful instruments of God, going wherever he sends us, working wonders and rejoicing in tribulations that we suffer for the sake of his Name.
It takes a life time of discipline and love to make the journey home to heaven. It takes many rounds of trying and failing to flee, be set apart, and become incarnate to finally let Christ succeed. It requires a long obedience, great faithfulness, and much love to stay the course. It is not an endeavour that can be undergone without a lifetime of prayer, feeding on God’s Word, the nourishment of the sacraments, and the support of a community of fellow disciples.
We have recognised for ourselves, and put our faith in, the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. Let us love, then, because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:16;19
It all begins by receiving God’s love into our hearts. The more of his love we allow into our hearts, the stronger will our desire be to become his saints. So let us recommit ourselves to this journey today and every day. Let us be Christ’s saints so that we can make the Kingdom of God a reality for the world!