Last week a young man came to me lamenting over not living as if Christ is resurrected and the tomb is empty. I invited him to explore with me what that “living after the Resurrection” should look like. He thought that there should be some peace, arising from a simple understanding that God has accomplished already those things that we fear and dread. We should not need to compete for God’s attention or love; He has come to us! Therefore we should live without fear. There should be some joy, as we understand that God is with us, cares for us, and is active in our lives. This is why He took on flesh and shared in everything that human life is, from conception to death. There should be freedom to make godly choices, because Christ is the Truth that has set us free. Filled with God, we no longer try to fill our emptiness with food, alcohol, drugs, television or anything else of the world. We have life-giving food from above.
“Yes,” said my young friend, “I believe all these truths, yet I still act as if God has not yet come. I don’t think of Him all the time, I don’t pray enough and I busy myself with mindless things!” Perhaps this young man speaks for many of us. We believe, but are so busy with life, which is mostly secular, with many competing ideas, that we don’t live as though God has come to us in the person of Christ – has suffered, has been buried, and is raised from the dead. We forget, moment to moment, that God is with us.
Simply lamenting our separated state from God alone will not help much. We need truly to change direction and put Christ back in the center of our lives. We need clearly to make Him our goal and deliberately change our lives to reflect our beliefs and values. This takes some deliberate effort.
The Church has given us two major fasting periods each year to bring us back to the reality of God’s presence. We celebrate His Nativity and Resurrection, preceded by periods of fasting, intensified worship, almsgiving and private prayer. The messages focus on what God does in our lives, and we are called to encounter Him. We can look forward to the messages the Church provides during Advent and Lent.
Having written this, however, the words of my young friend echo in my mind. Yes, I believe, but … changing our ways of living, our habits, if you will, takes practice. Just as a nun dons her habit (puts on her clothes) every day, so we need to practice in “putting God on,” speaking to Him, listening through the Scriptures, and making choices throughout the day that reflect Christ’s closeness to us. We need to practice living the truth that God is with us. We change habits by practicing new habits. We gain skills by practice.
It is noteworthy to me that we are not searching around, looking for God. Our God has taken on flesh to show Himself to us. He comes into our lives and calls us. He knocks at our doors. When Christ knocks at our doors, will we make room for Him in our hearts, or in our garages and barns? Will Jesus be to us an added spice to life, or the essence of life itself. Can we be patient enough with ourselves to journey to God from where we are, or will our lament turn to despondency and defeat us? With God, all things are possible. God acts, and it is His will to save us. For this reason the Word took on flesh and lives with us.