I am sure all of us have seen a car that has been in an accident. Its body is dented all over, the windscreen smashed in, the tyres punctured, the upholstered seats ripped apart in various places, the steering wheel and gears completely bent out of shape, and in a word, suitable only for metal scrap or the garbage dump. However, under the hand of a skilled motor mechanic, it becomes as good as new leaving not a scratch, scar or mark to remind its owner of the horrible escapade it had been through.
We have recently commemorated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter and are still in the Easter season. When we had begun the holy season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, all of us had come before the Lord in a sorry state, maybe like that car that had been in an accident or even worse. During the forty days of Lent and Holy Week we placed ourselves under the care of Jesus, our Divine Physician, our Glorious Surgeon. Under His gentle touch, healing presence and compassionate gaze, we underwent a rebirth, a regeneration, a transformation. We died with Him and by His resurrection He has given us a new lease of life. No mark, scar or scratch blemishes us to remind us of what we were before. We have become as good as new. To maintain this new lease of life which we have been given, there are a number of things we need to do everyday so that we may remain in the beautiful state in which we have been recreated. What are these?
Jesus promised, "And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues" (Mk 16: 17). We then firstly have to believe in the power of the Risen Christ and that He has truly given us new life by His resurrection from the dead. Just as we try to prevent mud from splashing on our cars by avoiding puddles on the road, we need to drive out the demons who taunt us with flashbacks of our former sinful lives and the pleasures attached to them in a bid to make us indulge in them once again. Let us not be like "the dog that turns back to its own vomit and the sow that is washed only to wallow in mud" (2 Pet 2: 22b). With the power of the Lord we need to conscientiously steer clear of the puddles (occasions) that lead us into sin and away from the presence of God. We also need to speak in "new tongues" which does not necessarily mean only different languages, but a different type of language. Where we may have been accustomed to cursing, swearing, abusing and using slang, we would now speak the language of love, mercy and compassion.
The words of Paul should ring in our ears, encouraging us to strive towards greater heights of perfection, raise our weary hearts and drooping spirits: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ he/she is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come" (2 Cor 5: 17). Regular washing, cleaning, scrubbing and polishing of our cars help maintain its new condition. So also, regular and intimate contact and dialogue withJesus keeps oure relationship alive. Frequent reception of the sacraments, especially that of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist strengthen us in living our new lives to the fullest.
Infact, what we should never forget but keep at the backs of our minds and in the innermost recesses of our hearts is that we have been created in the image and likeness of God. We should strive to maintain this image and reflect it to all those whom we come across in our day to day activities. Here Paul's letter to the Ephesians strikes the nail on the head when he asks us to "put on the new man/woman, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4: 24).
It would, at the same time, be wise to also have a realistic picture of ourselves and not be deluded by building castles in the air or daydreaming. We are human, not angels, made up of flesh and bones, not spirit alone. Due to this, we will always be frail and weak as long as we live on this earth. Inspite of our best efforts we are bound to fall from time to time. Just as we give our cars for weekly or monthly servicing, we too need to be serviced by frequenting the sacrament of Reconciliation. The modern trend seems to be not to go for confession to another human being, even though when he sits in the confessional, he takes the place of God. However, if we value the immortality of our souls and our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will let such a trend and all like it go to the blazes and go for confession at least once a month if not every week in order that we may be filled with new life, grace and strength. If we take pains to fulfil regularly all these things necessary for maintaining the new life Jesus has given us, as I have tried to ennumerate as best I can from my own experience, I am sure we will always remain as good as new.
By Patrick John Ashing
Oblate, OSB Cam