DYING WE ARE BORN
Anil Israel ponders on how each of us can live the Easter life that Christ has won for us
The joy of Easter is the joy of new life. The hope of Easter is the hope in life after death. The good news is “Jesus is risen!” (Mt 28:6). Christ is alive and as adopted children of God, we too are invited to participate in this joy. The joy of being in His presence for all eternity.
However, this promise of abundant life comes with a price tag. To follow in the footsteps of the Master, we need to do our part of the walking – we need to walk His way. Though salvation has been won for us, we still must do our part of the doing – imitate Him. It’s all about ‘denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following Him’ (Mt 16:24) We need to do our part of the loving – our unique part in His mystical body, the Church.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2Cor 5:17). Like St. Paul, we too are called to profess, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30) so that there is less of me and more of Him, until there is only all of Him and none of me.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24) For the new shoot to spring forth, the seed needs to abandon itself. It needs to give up its old self to be able to acquire the new self. A shedding of our old way of living is a pre-requisite to embrace the new life in Christ. The old me needs to be put to an end, for the new me to adorn His radiance. The desires of the flesh need to give way to the desires of the spirit.
“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:8) Scripture further vehemently emphasises, “You do not belong to yourselves but to God” (1Cor 6:19). We are repeatedly reminded to radically reorient our lives – to live the life of a Christian. If we remove ‘Christ’ from ‘Christian’, we are left with ‘ian’ meaning ‘I am nothing’ – without Christ I am nothing. We need to re-prioritize and start living a Christ-centred life.
Only when we realize that we have been created to participate in the divine life, will we be able to make concrete attempts to turn back to God and turn our back to the world. Only then can we start focussing on the eternal – on the ‘things above’ (Col 3:2) and ‘count as rubbish’ (Phil 3:8) everything else that distances us from Him. Only then can we start the process of ‘dying to ourselves’ and living exclusively for Him. Only then can we start considering giving up our ‘former way of life’ ‘corrupted by its deceitful desires’ (Eph 4:22) and start embracing the new life in Christ. Only then can we choose to ‘put on the new man’ (Col 3:10) and start growing into His image and likeness.
This calls for a lot of unlearning and a lot of new learning. I need to consciously tell myself, I have been created to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. This is one of the first things we learnt at Catechism and it got buried under the heap of knowledge of academic pursuits. I need to start living the life of childlike faith, abandoning myself to the loving arms of Papa God, trusting in His ever-faithful promises and letting Him take control of my life. It’s all about letting go and letting Him in. All the complex human logic that we have been desperately clinging on to for so long, we need to just let go. We only need to cling to the most holy name of Jesus, trustfully surrendering everything, believing that He who brought us to it, will surely help us see it through. For the Will of God will not take us to where His grace cannot sustain us.
Dying to self is all about living my life for His glory and not for my story. Dying to self is all about being love personified – being the face of His mercy – 24×7. Loving is all about forgiving, even when it seems the hardest –seventy times seven. Loving is all about the giving of our time, talents, material and spiritual gifts, not counting the cost – expecting nothing in return. It is putting on the apron of humility to serve others willingly, focussing not on one’s own interests but on those of others. It’s all about shifting our thought patterns from self-centeredness to other centeredness – growing more in terms of selflessness. It’s all about growing more in silence, enduring wrongs patiently and being content with all that comes our way whether we deserved it or not. Jesus set us an example enduring silently, when he was hit and spat upon, just like “a lamb that is led to the slaughter, as a sheep before its shearers” (Isa. 5:7).
‘I want to be like Jesus’ ought to be the unceasing song rising from our hearts. ‘I want to live for Jesus’ ought to be the reason behind all that we do or say. ‘I want to die-to-self for Jesus’ is perhaps the surest way to share eternity with Him. Truly, “it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.” (St. Francis of Assisi)
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