Saturday, July 1, 2023

A New Creation

     One morning my husband and I were reading part of a letter from St. Paul to the Colossians, found in the New Testament of the Bible. It was actually the First Reading in Liturgy of the Hours. I know--too much information. Let me get to the point...As I read I was a struck by the great message contained in this Word. The title of the excerpt was Life of a New Man. Isn't that what we long to be--a new and better creation?--a better version of ourselves as author, Matthew Kelly, would say.

     I'll just list some of the things Paul says to the Colossians and let's imagine he's speaking to us. He starts out with strong commands about what to stop doing."Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust that is idolatry." Col 3: 5 How's that for nailing it right off the bat? In other words, absolutely get rid of any of that. Either we put it to death or it puts us to death.

    "Put this aside now: all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language...and stop lying to one another." Col 3: 8-9 So we need to renounce anger, renounce lies and other destructive behaviors that we might engage in and pray for the grace to act maturely, that is, to exercise self-control with the words that come out of our mouths and to have the courage to speak with honesty. When we simply begin to choose and practice these virtues it gets easier and easier to live as mature people who then get into the flow of being the creative people we are meant to be.

     As St. Paul continues speaking he softens and instructs the Colossians to do these things: "Clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you."  Col 3: 12-13 In order to bear the fruit of those five virtues of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, we need to become aware of who we might need to forgive and have the willingness to forgive them, even when we may not feel like it. We choose to take the higher road. We keep in mind we are setting ourselves free when we forgive others and more wonderful things can happen when blocks, like unforgiveness, are removed from within us. 

     And then my favorite part of St. Paul's admonition--"Over all these virtues put on love. Christ's peace must reign in your hearts." Colossians 3: 14-15 There is truly nothing more powerful than love. Love transcends everything. It can speak all the languages of the universe. It can powerfully impact the hearts of everyone.  We seek to be love in this world. And peace reigns in our hearts when we choose this path of life.

     Finally, Paul says..."Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs."  Col 3: 15-16 Thanksgiving needs to be every day. Dedicate means to commit. We commit ourself to be a thankful person. When we remember to give thanks daily for all the gifts we take for granted--for breath, for life, for the people we love, for a place to live and food to eat, for the basics and all the extra surprises that happen unexpectedly, we enter into a more heavenly place on earth. Thanksgiving is a gateway into the presence of the Father Almighty.

    Imagine someone who is dressed in filthy garments. You are watching as they remove those dirty clothes and they say, "I don't need these anymore because there is something much better laying right here for me." When Paul spoke of "put to death" and "put this aside", it's getting rid of the filth that has turned us into selfish and, oftentimes, violent people. And now you can see them picking up clean, beautiful, royal-like garments and redressing themselves. They are choosing to clothe themselves with the beautiful virtues. Then they see a gorgeous velvet robe laying there too and put it over all the new clothes--that's the LOVE robe.

     And so I humbly pray+
     Lord Jesus, we desire to live as new creations, as new women and new men. Put to death, by the power of your Holy Spirit, whatever may be "rooted in earth" within us. Give us an increase of virtue to replace all that we need to put aside. Especially bless our mouths and all that comes from them. We command the stronghold of a lying spirit to leave us and ask for the spirit of truth to reign in our lives. 
    Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the same heartfelt compassion that Jesus had as he walked the earth. We long for the river of grace to flow through us. We will that all unforgiveness be gone toward those we have hardened our hearts against. Set us free, Lord, to forgive as you have forgiven. We surrender to love. Fill us with more of your Holy Spirit who is the love between you and the Father. We surrender to peace. Touch our minds that we may be transformed with good, holy, and pure thoughts that increase the peace within our hearts. 
    We thank you, Lord Jesus, for everything--for breathe, life, for each new day, for grace to be transformed, and power to turn from all that is not good, for your Holy Spirit that fills us, and your word that dwells richly within us. Increase our wisdom so we may help one another to find the right path that leads to eternal life. And finally, put a song of grateful joy ever in our mouths as we honor and praise you for all you have done for us. Amen.

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