Allowing Christ to Live in Me
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Think about these words we hear from the Apostle Paul. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It’s a pretty radical statement, yet it summarizes the journey and goal of our Christian life. We are on a lifelong struggle, which can be quite challenging and difficult, where we are not only called to become more and more like Jesus, but where we labor to control and crucify our own ego and actually allow Christ to be formed in us.
Since Jesus is the perfect man, the one who revealed to the world what true humanity is, He sets the standard and model for our own lives. Christ is what we are called to become! Jesus reveals what our own potential is, without its fallen consequences. He showed the world what a true human being, who perfectly incarnated divine love, can achieve – a life of absolute compassion and mercy, kindness and goodness, a life which healed whatever brokenness He encountered in the world and which brought out the beauty of those around Him.
This is the life of Jesus Christ, and this is the life that each one of us is called to imitate. Yet we can’t fulfill this potential through our own effort, but only when we allow Christ to live in us. Only when we open up our lives and hearts to receive Jesus and allow Him to live in us, can we reach our divine potential. This is what St. Paul did through his life, and why he could eventually say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Thus, the question we want to wrestle with today is HOW do we make room in our lives for Christ to come and be formed in us? What must we do, on our behalf, to fulfill our true human potential and become godlike?
On this Sunday after the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross we hear how to make room for Christ in our lives through the demanding words Jesus gave to His disciples: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. To form Christ in our lives means we must first struggle to “deny ourselves.” To deny ourselves implies no longer allowing our egocentric tendencies to control our lives. We must wrestle to make the dreams and desires of God one with our own desires and dreams. Each day we pray “Your will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer. Yet do we truly mean what we pray?
Contrary to today’s contemporary, individualistic spirit, which blatantly teaches us to do whatever we want whenever we want, to act on any whim we think will make us happy and seek immediate self-gratification, contrary to this worldly spirit we have Christ telling us to live a life of self-control, a life under God’s control. Jesus challenges us to not only deny our immediate worldly desires, but transform these passions and desires into godly desires, into actions of love and compassion and mercy which we see in Christ Himself.
Only through such self-denial and crucifixion of our own egotistical ways will we discover that the joys of life are not lessened, but in truth increase. The greatest happiness and meaning that life can bring will be realized because we will be doing what we were created to do, God’s will!
Together with denying ourselves, Jesus tells us to “take up your cross.” For the first century disciples, the cross was a fearful symbol of suffering and death. They surely didn’t understand these words when Christ spoke them. Only after Jesus transformed His own death on the cross into a victory of life, a victory over the evils and horrors of death itself, only then would they have understood that taking up one’s cross isn’t a masochistic path, but a mysterious path of life and victory itself!
They realized that “taking up your cross” implied not seeking a path of comfort or wealth or fame or power, but walking whatever path God placed before you, accepting whatever unexpected challenges life brings with peace and hope, knowing that ultimately God is in control. None of us know what life will bring tomorrow, but we all can be sure that God will be with us. And if we have the assurance that God is with us, it gives us the security to know that we can get through it victoriously. God will fill us with His peace and joy, even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges and even tragedies.
Finally, Jesus says that along with denying ourselves and taking up our cross, we must “follow Him.” To walk with Jesus means to walk according to how Jesus walked and where He walked. How did Christ walk? He walked as a humble servant of love. He understood the deepest needs of others and reached out to them with the healing grace of God. He became an instrument which administered the healing presence of God to others. He always thought of the other, and placed the other’s need first.
Where did Christ walk? He chose to walk among the poor, the simple, the sick, the marginalized of society. He did not seek after the powerful and comfortable, even though when He did encounter the rich and mighty, He acted in the same way. He was not blinded by worldly status, but saw the illnesses of all humanity, and became a light to all, bringing God’s love and grace.
Thus, to allow Christ to live in us, we must follow the command of Jesus and learn to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.” St. John the Evangelist summarized it well, when he wrote, “This is the way we know that we are in union with him; whoever claims to abide in him, ought to live just as he lived.” (1 John 2:6) Here is the entire message of the Gospel – to become like Jesus. Yet to truly become like Him can only happen when we allow Christ to truly dwell in us
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” O Lord, come and dwell in us. Make our hearts and lives a place where You will abide each and every day. Help us to overcome our self-centered ways and fulfill the divine potential You placed in each one of us. Only as You are formed more fully in us will we discover the deepest meaning and joy of life itself! Come, O Lord, and be formed in us! Amen.
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