Choosing to 'put on Christ'

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In this period after Easter, we are in the Great Fifty Days – the period between Easter and Pentecost.  If we belong to a church that follows a liturgical cycle, we will probably find that prayers in our services reflect this.  There will be continued mention of the joy of Easter, and as Pentecost approaches, prayers about preparing to renew the gift of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and send them out to preach about Jesus.  At our baptism and confirmation we too receive the personal gift of the Holy Spirit.  What are we sent out to do???

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.[1]  St Paul says that we have “put on” Christ, like you “put on” a piece of clothing. A new identity in Christ has been given to us by grace. But I think there’s a paradox about this. As well as receiving a new identity in Christ as a gift, we also have to actively “put on” Christ, in our daily choosing to love God, love our neighbour and to love ourselves. Maybe these days we should also include a choice to love the created world.

When both Christ and John the Baptist began to preach, their first words were “Repent!”. When Peter stood up to speak to the crowd on the day of Pentecost he said the same thing: “Repent!”.  I would say that this is another way of talking about the daily decision to “put on Christ”.

For many people there is a decisive moment of conversion, when we acknowledge that life has become unmanageable, that we have to hand everything over to God or spiral into destruction. Or - it can be a recognition that the way we are living is a mask - the way I’m living now is not fundamentally who I am. Even if we don’t have a radical conversion experience, Christianity involves a continual effort of metanoia, of returning to our identity as children of God, to “putting on” Christ.

God’s grace can transform everything that we are. A helpful illustration could be a beautiful diamond that has been spoilt by a disfiguring scratch. The master-craftsman takes the diamond and engraves a rose, the stem of the rose is the scratch. Another example could be a painting whose canvas has been slashed.  The painter reworks the painting, incorporating the rent in the canvas so that the final work is more textured and profound, (if not as conventional,) than it was before.

As Christians we know that we are first loved with a love infinitely greater than our own. But we have to respond – daily choosing to put on our new identity as children of God. By choosing to accept the love that God gives us, we become the person that we are meant to be.

Mother Sarah

[1] Gal 3:26 - 27

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