Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
This is the fifth in a series of articles on what it means to be transformed by clothing ourselves with Christ. In the previous articles, we have described how clothing ourselves in Christ can transform us into the image and likeness of Christ. As this happens, it results in a transformed personality, transformed priorities, and a transformed prayer life. In this article, we will take look at the role we play in this transformation process and how we can live a transformed and holy life, especially in the ways we relate to other people. We will do this by first examining St. Paul’s advice to the Colossians (in chapter 3, verses 12-17).
As we also saw in the previous articles, Jesus gives us the “garment of salvation” when we are baptized-but it is up to us to put on that garment every day. It is up to us every morning to set our hearts on Jesus, not on the darkened philosophies in the world. However, just as it is essential to make a daily consecration to the Lord, it is equally important that we spend the rest of the day living according to his way. And that’s where this passage from Colossians comes in. In these few verses, we find a description of our role in the process of transformation-the work we must do if we want to see ourselves become more and more like Jesus.
As we try to clothe ourselves with Christ, and the disposition described in Colossians, we give the Holy Spirit greater freedom to change our hearts-and as a consequence, strengthen our relationships with others. So while we do clothe ourselves in the garment of salvation through baptism and faith, we are also called to “work out” our salvation every day (Philippians 2:12), clothing ourselves in virtues that will support the transformation Jesus wants to accomplish in us.
Can you see how these two actions-one from the Holy Spirit and one from us-work together? Perhaps St. Augustine said it best when he exhorted people to pray as if it all depends on God, but to work as if it all depends on us.
Put On the Virtues of God
So Paul urges us to “put on,” or clothe ourselves, in six virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. We are all familiar with these, so it is a matter of daily practice. However, one virtue, forgiveness, has always been a particularly effective bridge that brings people who are separated a bit closer together.
One powerful illustration of this fact involves a young man who tried to rape an eleven-year-old girl. Because the girl refused to submit to his desires, the man stabbed her over and over again, leaving her for dead. She was discovered, however, and taken to a hospital. As she lay dying, the girl forgave her attacker. The man was captured and imprisoned, and he remained unrepentant until one day when, in a dream, he saw this young girl whom he had killed giving him flowers. Deeply moved, the man finally did repent and dedicated his life to the Lord. When he was released after twenty-seven years in prison, the man went to the girl’s mother to beg her forgiveness. “If my daughter can forgive you,” she replied, “who am I to withhold forgiveness?”
This story of St. Maria Goretti, the impact she had on the man who murdered her, illustrates the dramatic way God can work to bring forgiveness and healing. It tells us that even in the most desperate of situations, where forgiveness can seem impossible, we should try our best to have mercy and leave the rest up to God. He knows what is in our hearts. If we simply cannot forgive someone-or if we simply cannot ask another person for forgiveness-we can always go to Jesus in prayer and talk to him about it. He will make a way over time to bring healing and reconciliation.
The truth is that as long as sin remains in the world, injustice, hurt, and divisions will be with us as well. There is simply no way around it. But when forgiveness is expressed, God works. He always brings good out of our efforts, even when the effort may be weak but the intentions are good.
Grace, Nature, and Peace
When Paul told the Colossians, “let the peace of Christ control your hearts,” he was telling them that God’s peace is a result of his grace, and it is not just a good feeling. No, this grace actually conveys God’s own power to help us face and resolve the conflicts that confront us in daily life.
It was God’s peace that helped mend the division between Jews and Gentiles in the early church: “He is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity” (Ephesians 2:14). That same peace is available to us. If his peace can unite two races that had been enemies for centuries, it certainly is capable of building up our good relationships and mending our weak or broken ones!
When a relationship hits a snag, it can be very easy to resort to just worldly methods to resolve the problem. But these methods hardly ever leave us-or the other person-with peace. So the next time you are dealing with someone who is hard to love, prepare yourself by standing back for a moment and asking Jesus for his peace. Then try to rely on his promise to give you wisdom, compassion, and love.
As you clothe yourself with Christ, put on his virtues, and let the word of God dwell in you richly you will be surprised at the way Jesus transforms your heart and mind and helps you say and do the right things. In the next article we will look more closely at how to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men1.
1. In the article, we hear these words: “Jesus gives us the ‘garment of salvation’ when we are baptized-but it is up to us to put on that garment every day.” What do you think it means to put on the “garment of salvation” each day? How well are you doing it?
2. St. Paul speaks of six virtues in Colossians 3:12,13 — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. How we are you at putting these into practice? What steps can you take to grow in these virtues?
3. If you were the father of St. Maria Goretti, do you think you would have been able to forgive her murderer? Why or why not?
4. Why is the mother of Maria Goretti’s forgiveness analogous to Jesus’ forgiveness of you and I on the cross? Does knowing this make a difference to you in how you are to forgive others? Why or why not?
5. The article states that “God’s peace is a result of his grace, and it is not just a good feeling.” Why is this so? How can you open your self more to this grace?
6.If you are in a men’s group, take a few minutes at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that Jesus would transform your heart and mind as you “clothe yourself with Christ, put on his virtues, and let the word of God dwell in you richly.”