I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. ~ Romans 12:1-2
I hope your Advent is proving spiritually refreshing, and that the increased prayer we are offering together is helping in your preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.
The practice of Catholicism is geared to healing us and preparing us for participation in God’s plan for the world. When we accept the call to “put on Christ” we take on Christ’s death, and are made to die to ourselves in multiple ways as we conform our bodies and minds to Christ.
In one of his general audiences, Pope Francis focused on why we Catholics must think like Christ. He pointed out that a Christian isn’t a person who simply follows commandments, but is a person who tries to act, think and love like Christ. Being a Christian, he said, means allowing Jesus “to take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, free us from the darkness of evil and sin.” Jesus’ death and resurrection has a practical impact on us. Through the resurrection, the Pope explained, “we are freed from slavery to sin and become children of God.”
Being a child of God, a believer, implies a relationship with God that is deepened daily through prayer, spiritual reading of sacred scripture and Church Fathers, receiving the sacraments –especially penance and the Eucharist, and through acts of charity. “And God treats us like sons and daughters. He understands us, forgives us, embraces us and loves us even when we make mistakes.”
The Pope reminds us not to listen to voices that try to tell us that God doesn’t matter, nor to give in to the temptation of “putting God aside and ourselves at the center.” Peace and joy come from knowing one is loved by God, he added. “God is our strength. God is our hope.” Even though sadness and the temptation of despair are strong in today’s world, Christians even more so have an obligation to be “visible, clear, brilliant signs of hope.”
“How many times in our lives have our hopes been dashed? How many times have the expectations we carried in our hearts not been realized? Christian hope is strong, certain, solid on this earth that God has called us to walk on and is open to eternity, because this hope is built on God who is always faithful.”
Our Lord took flesh [was incarnated] and dwelt amongst us, and has given us the gift of the Spirit to remain with us. Continue to call on that Spirit as you deepen the life of prayer on your Advent journey toward Christmas. And just in case you’ve been too distracted–it’s not too late, say a rosary today, and say one every day till Christmas.