“You have all clothed yourselves in Christ”.
Paul today in the Second Reading invites the Galatians to be totally absorbed in Christ. Their speaking, acting, working, recreation and every part of their being, is called to be coloured by and orientated towards Christ.
It is often said “Be careful what you wish for” because you get what you ask for. If we are wishing and asking to be in and for Christ, we have to be ready for what Jesus promises us today in the Gospel, namely to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. When Peter is asked by Jesus who he is, he answers “You are the Christ of God”. What has happened to Peter is that he has lived a life of absorption into Christ, so much so that at the end of his life, he will be crucified as Christ is crucified. Peter because he is living in Christ, is able to profess Christ and unless we live in Christ, we will not speak of Him and evangelise others. The Gospel today paints two very different and mutually exclusive ways of living the religious life. There are like “two gangs”. The first gang is that of the Scribes, Pharisees and Chief Priests and they have a spirit of self-satisfaction, pridefullness and ego. They have sorted out religion, they have organised it according to their own priorities and they do not want to be challenged. The second gang, is the one that we are invited to but they are the ones who will suffer, die and lose their lives for Christ.
In order to understand this difference, we can perhaps ask the question of what is it that defines Christianity. The answer that many will give I suspect is Christianity is about acceptance, kindness, generosity, turning the other cheek and a readiness to forgive. The devil’s advocate might say that is very like eastern religions who are full of kindness and tolerance and it is why over the years, many in the west have been attracted to them. However, have they met Christ?
Our faith is certainly about those Christian virtues of generosity, kindness, going the extra mile and a readiness to forgive but it is also one in which we have to be ready for opposition and at times violence directed against the truth we espouse. Christ says in the Gospel “I have come to bring fire to the land”, “You will be denounced on account of my name before synagogues” and today we hear, “Renounce yourself and take up your cross”. As we sit here this evening, we know that there are many of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are suffering a great violence because of their belonging to Christ. So how do we leave the gang of the Scribes, Pharisees and Chief Priests and as St Paul says “Be clothed with Christ”? In order to take that journey, we have to be ready to set ourselves to know and love Him. When every part of our life, hopes, joys, challenges and sufferings and the vicissitudes of life are completely absorbed into Christ so that He owns every part of our lives – that must be our prayer. This is what happened to Peter so when Jesus asked him who he was, Peter was able to recognise him as the “Christ of God”. It was because Peter lived in Christ that he could recognise Christ. If we do not live in Christ, then we will be satisfied with gentle truths that seem to harm or threaten no one. Our Christian life if it is to be real has to be about being immersed in Christ. When we received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we were Christed, literally we were joined and immersed into Christ. This wasn’t just a nice glue and us going along with some vague creedal statements but literally a plunging into the person of Jesus. When we begin to see what Christ can do to us and to others, something unbelievably beautiful true and attractive happens. It sets us free and others as well. As you look at Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Francis of Assisi, Anthony of Padua or Therese of Lisieux you see something which is extraordinarily beautiful, freeing and attractive. They explain to us what it means to be human. So much of our modern world wants to define human rights and how we should be with people of different backgrounds and outlook on life but in truth, until we truly know Christ we do not understand what it means to be human. It is also in that humanity of those who are living in Christ that we can defeat evil and sin and find the way to Heaven. St Paul says “You have all clothed yourselves in Christ” and we have to be careful of what we wish for. Surely when we see the beauty of holiness and immersion into Christ, we have no alternative but to wish for the same. Let us be ready to put on Christ and to share in that venture which takes us to Heaven and will show others how to take the same road.