You are destined by God to reflect His image. Did you ever go to a clear, still pond? If you ever do, go down and kneel at the edge of it and just lean over and look at your image. It’ll be kind of wavy, but you’ll see it — not perfect, but you’ll know it’s there. That’s exactly what God has in store for you. When others see you, they must see a little ripple of the image of Jesus. Just imagine your destiny!
The responsibility that a Christian has before the world is tremendous. It says in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, “I want to urge you in the Name of the Lord not to go on living the aimless kind of life the pagans live” (see v. 17).
What does it mean to have an aimless life? It means you have no goals. It means you don’t know what Christianity demands. And if you don’t know what Christianity demands, then you’re just aimless. You go to church; you belong to that organization; you do this thing and that. But in between there are huge chunks of your life that are no good or lukewarm — aimless, without a goal. You’re supposed to desire one thing if you’re a Christian, and that is to be like Jesus — that the ripple in that pond will begin to straighten out, so that it is so beautiful that you can hardly tell the difference between the image and the one looking. Now you’ve got the idea of what it means to be a Christian.
Created to Love & Serve
We’ve got to know why we were created. We were created to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and to be like Him so our neighbors will look at us and see Jesus. Remember, you may be the only Jesus your neighbor will ever see. And so your mission in life is great. You have great dignity and great power, and you’re supposed to be a new creation, not the old man. If you’re the old man inside, you’re in bad shape. You don’t prove that Jesus redeemed, because you’re just the old guy you always were.
You know, there’s every kind of difference in your family life, in your work life, in your parish life. But Jesus never asked us to be like everyone else, or everyone else like me. He just asked me to love — to love you, to love myself, to love my Church, who is a mother, Holy Mother Church. Say it sometimes to yourself. A mother is someone who’s warm and kind and gentle. A man is supposed to be like the Eternal Father: powerful and strong and provident and merciful and compassionate and loving. You’re called by God to be all those beautiful things. And they’re hard to come by. It’s a struggle. You don’t feel loving sometimes; and other times, people are hard to love, even those in your family.
But see, Jesus never promised us it would be easy. What we have, though, is joy. Remember from the Beatitudes in Luke, about being persecuted: “Leap for joy!” The world says nobody should be happy. That’s why the best way to bug your neighbor is to be happy! Be full of joy, and everybody thinks you’re out of your mind. But your joy is not of this world. Your joy is in Jesus!
The Joy of Holiness
That’s the joy of holiness. We’re all called to be holy! And to be holy, you need to do two simple things. First, say “I’m sorry” often — first to God and then to your family. Every time you do, and really mean it, all Heaven rejoices. What a tremendous gift to be able to say “I’m sorry.” And say another thing very often. Say “I love you” to your wife, to your husband. We’ve lost the beauty of “I love you.” We think it’s mushy or emotional or whatever, but the whole world needs to hear one thing, with strength and power — first, that “God loves you,” then “I love you.” You must say that often to your friends. This world is not starving from economic problems. It’s starving from a want of love.
This world is starving for love because there aren’t enough Christians in this world — perhaps in your neighborhood, perhaps in your church, perhaps in your family — who are willing to sacrifice and love. Remember, it takes great sacrifice to love. This doesn’t mean you should be somehow forced to love me or to love your family or to love anybody. What we mean is that it demands being like Jesus. And looking at His image in the pond demands that you bend over — an attitude that is one of humility.
The Humility to Love
It takes humility to love. You have to understand other people; you have to put up with their eccentricities. You have to love them. You have to love them all along. You can’t just look at people and decide, “I love this one; I don’t love that one.” And because the world is starving for love, it has a wrong concept of love. If the world doesn’t find love in a Christian, it will create its own kind of love, and it will be false and selfish and painful.
But the love that Jesus is talking about is high and great and fulfilling. It isn’t something that drains something out of you. It’s something that puts something into you, so you can give it out! Any other kind of love drains and drains and drains. And one morning you wake up and you’re an empty vessel. And nobody wants you anymore because you have nothing to give. They have drained every single bit of love out of you, and there’s nothing left. Ah, but the joy and the happiness of a Christian is different because it’s built on sacrifice, because it’s built on Jesus, because it’s called to share His love, not to just give.
But see, the Cross is something that gives, but it never runs out. The Cross represents a vertical relationship with God that’s deep, and it feeds us. And then the horizontal beam, that’s your neighbor. But some people run around their whole life with a horizontal bar on their shoulder and they have nothing to give, because once that’s gone, they’re finished, and the world just throws them off like a dog. That image that you’re supposed to reflect is not there. The image is selfish, not Jesus. And so, St. Paul is saying here in Ephesians, you have to put on the new self (see 4:22–24).
Can you imagine what it would mean to be miserable one day, then to wake up the next morning feeling full of love for God and your neighbor? Can you imagine being full of fear today and waking up tomorrow full of confidence in God and in yourself? Today, looking upon the whole world as a hopeless situation that’s only going to get worse, and tomorrow, knowing that it’s all in the palm of His hand? Can you imagine having a temper today that you can’t control and then suddenly being filled with the Spirit and saying, “Lord, look at me. I’m a new person”? Can you imagine that?
Our Difference as Christians
Paul says, “Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution.” Oh, we don’t want a spiritual revolution. We’re very comfortable; we’re very complacent. We don’t want a spiritual revolution. We don’t want the Spirit. We don’t want anything but a complacent life. Nobody bothers us; everybody agrees with us. Well, I don’t intend to agree with you. I intend to be a thorn in your side. You know why? Because you’re supposed to be a thorn in somebody else’s side. You’re different. You’re a Christian.
What do I mean by “a thorn in somebody’s side”? Well, if somebody in your office is doing something that’s not right and you don’t go along with it, aren’t you a thorn? Every time he looks at you, his conscience bothers him. And praise God for that! The next time you get company and they’re staying too late, just talk about Jesus, talk about Heaven: Just be joyful.
Oh, nobody wants to have the faith that’s shaky, the faith that takes sacrifice. We must put on a new mind. We must think like Jesus. Remember the mirror in that pond: Every day, there must be fewer ripples; every day, less confusion; every day, less turmoil that makes the image blurry. That’s what life is. Your whole life is looking at God in this pond until it becomes so beautiful that everybody who looks in the pond sees not you but Jesus.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in the book Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life. It is available from your favorite bookseller or online through Sophia Institute Press.
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