Our Lenten journey is largely about transformation. We practice our Lenten disciplines, observe our fasts, turn our hearts to God in prayer, make our offerings and meditate on the Passion of Christ in response to God’s call for conversion in our lives. We know that there are things in our lives that are not as they should be, relationships that are broken, promises that have not been kept, lies that we are perpetuating, a lack of chastity in our hearts and many other decisions that reflect our infidelity to the truth and to what is right as handed down through the covenant that we have with God. We know that we are better than we are currently behaving and we want to rid ourselves of our sinful nature and begin a new life more conformed to Jesus Christ. Often we have tried time and time again to change ourselves and to change our relationships by trying new things. We get caught up in the self-help solutions that our world offers us but they never seem to result in lasting change. St. Paul describes the situation of many of us in his letter to the Philippians, “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” (Phil 3,18f) We need to break the cycle of “destruction” in our lives and turn our minds to greater things, heavenly things, transforming things, grace-filled things. We cannot accomplish this change and conversion in our lives ourselves. Lent reminds us that God’s Spirit is still at work among us and within us and that if we can cooperate with the Spirit of God at work in our lives, living a more “spiritual” life, then we can experience a greater freedom and a more joyful life as children of God.
Paul helps us to understand how that conversion can begin to take place in our lives. First we need to look for good examples in our life, the example of others who are living the life of Christ more fully. Paul advises us, “Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.” (Phil 3,17) We often need an example to inspire us to a greater life. We have the examples of the lives of the saints and of the ordinary saints that are hidden among us that practice simple charity and goodness. Of course, our greatest example is Jesus Christ himself. He gives us an example of holiness, purity, union with God, unselfish service, abandonment in suffering and ultimate glory in the new life of resurrection.
Jesus gives us a beautiful example of transformation in glory in the gospel of the Transfiguration. He takes the leadership team of the apostles, Peter, James and John, and goes up on the mountain to pray. Our Lenten journey must also be a journey into deeper prayer that will lead us to conversion, transformation and new life. While he is praying he is transfigured before the apostles. He gives them an example of a human life that is uncorrupted by sin and in a state of perfect communion with the Father. He reveals to us what is being prepared for us in the future. Paul refers to the same truth of our destiny for glory, “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3,21)
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul is also referring to our future transformation in glory, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God;” (Romans 8, 16-19) St. John also writes about this mystery of future glory, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” (1 John 3, 2-3) We must suffer with Christ if we are also to share in his glory. Our path of conversion and transformation must first pass through the cross of Christ. We should not be “enemies of the cross” as St. Paul says but we should embrace the cross and take up our daily crosses to follow Jesus. The sufferings that we may endure in this life are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in eternal life and so we must seek purity and holiness through a conversion in the Spirit during this season of Lent.
Our journey in Lent is meant to help us to “be like him”, both in his suffering and in his glory. We share in the exodus that he accomplishes on the cross so that we might share in the glory that is revealed in him in his resurrection.
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