Professionals, like firemen, policemen, and military personnel, wear a distinctive uniform or insignia that helps us easily identify them. As for Christians, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul explains how Christians should live in the light of Faith and in relation to one another and society. Having been liberated by Christ, Christians are to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” We are “not to conform to this age” (Romans 12:1-2); instead, we are called to be warriors – to live our faith with passion and conviction, virtuously, and in accord with God’s will.
Discipleship is faith expressed in real life, every day, in every way. We are to “let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) by shedding our “street clothes” – the habits of pride, rebellion, and sinfulness and put on “new clothing,” which represents a Christ-covered life.
“Man was created for greatness—for God himself, he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched” (Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI). Sadly, many Christians seek what is comfortable and extremely superficial; yet Christ calls us to something truly meaningful – to achieve greatness. “You are the light of the world,” says the Lord and “a city set on a mountain cannot be hidden,” so “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16).
In an address to German pilgrims in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that Jesus’ command to love requires hard work and is painful. “Christ did not promise an easy life,” noted the pope and “those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.” Discipleship implies a living relationship with Christ, in Whose life we are invited to share, love, serve, seek, and imitate.
The Father’s act of love in giving His Son defines the ultimate requirement of true love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19); thus, our love for Him is a response to His love for us. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” says Christ and “this is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). God’s love is perfected in us when we reproduce it in or among ourselves.
Holiness is the remedy which heals, transforms, strengthens, and produces an abundant harvest. “All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, 40). Uniting our wills to God’s brings about the “fullness of Christian life” and “the perfection of love.”
Following Christ can be extremely hard at times, but our part is a daily effort to discipline ourselves and to strive for holiness as an athlete competing in games (2 Timothy 4:7). The Holy Spirit can transform us, stretch our hearts, enabling us to bear godly fruits (Galatians 5:22) and also assist us to give full witness to His transforming power, allowing us to say “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org), and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.