such a change is beyond anything you could imagine -- unless, of course, you have experienced it. While it involves a journey from an all-too-familiar yet foreign land, into an unknown homeland in which things are astonishingly different from what they are presently, you need not travel any distance, therefore there is little use in speaking about time. Since you have not yet visited this new land, you cannot possibly know what is ahead nor foresee the difficulties you will encounter on the journey. Nor are you aware of the vast beauty and untold joy flourishing all along the way. In any case, you must decide whether or not you are ready for the adventure. Are you?
I will assume you are. Now, there are some things you must know. You can no longer procrastinate as so many often do, and perhaps as you have done in the past. Now is the time, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Today is the day to set off for the new world. You need take up the path of desire leading from shadows and often stifling darkness into other-worldly light, from finitude to eternity. This desire must be extreme, rising above any want of worldly things and other creatures, including the desires of self, in order to develop a real and true thirst for God.
Read the above story again (adapted from Genesis chapter 3 and other places in Scripture). Is there anything you would refuse to give up in order to leave behind a land of unhappiness and enter permanently into the promised land of joyous warmth, become a member of the royal family, and dwell forever in the household of God? What love the Holy Trinity has poured out for you! The only thing you have to give to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, whose love surpasses all human understanding, is your own self and your own love.
Progress cannot be made without a profound interior change -- known as authentic conversion, which is the foundation of the spiritual life. The old life and the old self must be put to death. Sin must be hated, eradicated, cast off and away. While this will initially involve perhaps a great deal of pain, just as does pulling a deeply set sliver from your hand, remember you are not alone, for it is God who will see you through to the end. Pray unceasingly, then, for without God's grace you can accomplish nothing. Nevertheless, while God will do everything for you, you need also do everything within your power. Put your whole self entirely into this journey. If you do not, then the only conclusion to be drawn is that you lacked the necessary desire in the first place.
Cultivate and then attain a love for God above all things. Such a concept can be an extremely difficult one to grasp given the circumstances of earthly life, with its temptations and distractions and illusions and deceptions. Further, such a state is impossible to attain without the transforming and healing power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is crucial to frequently avail oneself of the divine liturgy and the sacraments of the Church, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist, beg God to put an end to any disordered love for created things he may find rooted in your heart, and firmly choose to live a life of purity, simplicity and holiness. Above all, you must convince yourself of your need for God. You are dependent on God. It is God who saves, heals, recreates and fulfills.
"You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and summoned from its far-off places, To whom I have said, You are my servant; I chose you, I have not rejected you -- Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you" (Isaiah 41:9-10, 13).
The journey ahead is the road of perfection and love; it is the joyful path of the spiritual life leading to the ineffable light and warmth of God, an existence and reality made possible only by Christ. It is for the humble, patient, persistent and dedicated. While the journey is not easy, the rewards are beyond all measure. No one can adequately describe what awaits you as a new person; you will understand only as a result of experience. Commend yourself to God, for it is God who takes you into his hands and transforms you through the power of his Spirit into a member of the divine family. For your part, say "yes," fully and completely with your entire self, as did the sweet Virgin Mary who gave birth to the Savior of the world, the Son of God made man who has come, is coming, and will come again. An imperative of the journey is, then, to love God for his own sake, above all else.
The will of God is to become your will: therein lies your happiness and fulfillment.
Enter fully into Advent by opening your heart to the Son of God. Gaze upon Christ who came into the harsh world, one where survival is a real battle, as a little, humble Child born in a cave at Bethlehem. There you will find the true, fullest and complete meaning of love. There you will find the meaning of life. There you will find the new life of faith in Christ who reconciles and saves, redeems and restores, heals and perfects and elevates. Do you want to become a new person? It is the Person of Jesus the Christ, "the way and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6), who makes "all things new" (Rev 21:5), who will indeed make it so.
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: advent, recreated in Christ, everlasting life, eternal life, heaven, child of God, member of the divine family, spiritual life, spirituality, happiness, fulfillment, F. K. Bartels
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