02 March 2012

To resemble Christ

Toward the beginning of his meditations on The Sadness of Christ, the one-time Lord Chancellor of England, Saint Thomas More, said: "Alas, how different we are from Christ, though we call ourselves Christians."

Holy Mother Church gives us each year this penitential season of Lent precisely because of the truth of More's observation, because we are not always clear reflections of him who is the Light of the World (cf. John 8:12).  He who is the Light Himself says to us, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14).  But it often happens that because of our sin our light is diminished to varying degrees.

If we consider our souls as old lanterns, with a candle in the center surrounded by four panes of glass.

On the day of our Baptism, the flame of faith was entrusted to us - symbolized by the Baptismal candle lit from the Paschal Candle - when the priest or deacon said: "Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.  Keep the flame of faith alive in his heart."  How brightly does this flame burn within you?  Do you seek to stir it up (cf. II Timothy 1:6)?

If the panes of glass in the lantern are kept clean, the light from the candle shines brightly forth illuminating all around it, but if the panes are covered with soot, light is dimmed and what was once illumined is covered in darkness.  So it is with us.

If our sin is allowed to cover the panes of our soul, the flame of faith entrusted to us cannot shine forth and illumine our life or the lives of those around us.  But if we allow the Lord to wipe our panes clean with the words of absolution, our light - His Light - shines brightly through us as our lives resemble ever more closely the life of Jesus Christ.

How are we, then, to conform our lives to His?  We do so by following the wisdom of the great Saints who spent much time and prayer contemplating the Crucified One.

Saint Francis of Assisi once prayed:
My Lord Jesus Christ, I beg thee to grant me two graces before my death: first, that for the rest of my life I may experience in my soul and in my body, as much as possible, the same pain that you suffered, O sweet Jesus, during the time of thy most cruel Passion; and second, that I may feel in my heart, as much as possible, the same love which inflamed thee, the Son of God, and led thee to suffer thy passion gladly for us sinners.
And his spiritual sister, Saint Clare of Assisi wrote of Blessed Agnes of Prague:
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself
through contemplation!
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
which God Himself has reserved
from the beginning
for those who love Him.
In the Cross, then, we are to see not only what we are but also what we are called to be: other Christs who bear his name worthily so that in the end we can say with Saint Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

We must not run from the Cross; rather, we must embrace it and not count the cost.  Let each of us, then, bear in mind and heart these words of Saint John Vianney: "O my God, I prefer to die loving you than to live a single instant without loving you.... I love you, my divine Savior, because you were crucified for us ... because you have me crucified for you."

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