Being Christian it’s not about a choice for heaven; a choice against hell. It is a choice to enter into a relationship with one’s creator. It is a decision to walk a certain way of life; to walk away from a certain type of life. Being Christian is not about waiting for death so one can enter into the kingdom, but living in the kingdom today.
What does it mean to live in God’s kingdom today? This is a question I continue to research, but I will share my current findings with you.
First, it is a way of life. It is path of following Jesus. The early Christians, and even many Christians today, believed that following Jesus was the way of the cross. This meant accepting whatever came one’s way. God’s divine providence allows all things to happen, and thus we must joyfully accept everything that happens (which might take practice). It means spending time with Jesus. It means prayer. It means being aware of what is happening in the world, and seeking ways to alleviate pain, even to the extent of inconveniencing ourselves. It means putting other people first.
Second, it is a process of becoming Jesus. It is a process that takes our entire life, and likely, to some degree, in the next. We see this truth in the words of Jesus where he prayed that we be one with him and the father, as he and the father are one. Jn 17:21-26. We see this truth in Paul’s statement that he lives no longer, but Christ lives in him. Gal 2:20.
In some respects, I believe the way of the cross is the process by which we become Jesus. When we accept what comes our way, we allow God’s will to be done, just as Jesus allowed it to be done in his passion and resurrection. It is in this process that we learn to be obedient to God as Jesus was obedient.
The way of the cross is about dying to self for one must die if we are to become Jesus. There are many ways to die to self, but offering up our day-to-day discomfort, pain, and confusion is a very good way to start. We offer these things up by taking them to prayer. We take them into a conversation with God. We can ask him why, but the better question is how. We express our willingness or desire to accept these things, and we ask him for the grace to do so. As we learn to trust in God, and to accept these things, we can challenge ourselves more by creating discomfort in our personal lives. We can do things like take cold showers, allow the temperature settings in our house to be at a place outside of our comfort zone, and otherwise seek to live in a way that does not focus on our comfort and pleasure. These types of choices help us become comfortable in what can be seen as a nomadic life, and in theory, open our eyes to the pain and discomfort in the lives of others. It helps us to become full of compassion.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit. Talk to him about what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; to be shaped and conformed into Jesus. Ask him to help you see where is your life can be redirected to achieve these goals. Ask him to increase your knowledge of who Jesus is, and what it means to be him. Ask him what you can do to further the process of dying with Christ, so that he might live in you.
Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.