You Can Become a New Person

by Kilian McGowan, C.P.

How many times have you heard someone say: "I wish that I could be a different person." You may have thought, or even said, the same thing to yourself. Life could be much easier if you could change some of your characteristics. A change wouldn't hurt at all.

The encouraging fact is that you can become a totally different person. You can become a new man or woman from your very roots by being transformed from above. A supernatural transformation of yourself from within is possible -- if you let God remake your personality.

In fact, your conversion begins with a determined desire to become a new person in Christ. It takes a wholehearted readiness for a complete change.

This desire for a change is your conscious response to the challenge of your baptism. Baptism began a lifetime process of dying to self and living unto God. You put this process into high gear by such a desire.

God Will Make You Over

Maybe you would like to be made-over, but you're not willing to pay the price. You must be disposed for total conversion -- a complete change of heart. That's what our Lord wants from you -- the sincere readiness to let Him make you over according to His pattern.

The response of all too many to this invitation of our Blessed Lord is cautious, conditional and calculating. Don't hedge and procrastinate like them! They're willing to go so far and no further -- to give so much and no more. They measure all too carefully their surrender to the ways of God. They want to follow Christ, but only on their terms. You must be different!

The sincere readiness for a change places no conditions on God. It means you surrender completely to Christ's action on your soul. You must place yourself in God's hand for remolding. His hands are tied unless you give the material with which to work. This is the first step of one's transformation into Christ -- to give Him "a free hand."

The Readiness to Change

We find this readiness to change in the lives of the saints. They kept placing themselves and their lives in the hands of God, asking Him to take over. If anything, this disposition increased with their progress in holiness. Their lives were more a surrender to God than a conquest of self. Of course, the two are really inseparable.

This readiness to change should be a lifelong thing. Unless we are pliable and moldable in the hands of God, there can be no continued spiritual progress. It's our way of telling our Lord that He can change us any way He wishes, and how He wishes.

To say with so many of the saints, "Lord, what would you have me do?" is no small thing. But far better to say with the Blessed Virgin Mary: "Be it done unto me according to thy Word." (Luke 1:38)

On our part, there is but one prerequisite regardless of our past -- and that is the resolute determination to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God. St. Theresa tells us what will happen if we do . . . "God gives Himself wholly to the soul who gives himself to God."

And that's all it takes for holiness -- or happiness!

You Must Really Desire Perfection

Why do most Christians fail to achieve familiar friendship with our Blessed Lord? I think the answer is obvious. They never effectively desire it. Desire is always the first movement of the soul towards union with God.The desire for Christian perfection is a movement of our wills, spurred on by the grace of God, causing us to seek union with Him. This desire should be fervent and constant.

In the first chapter of the Gospel of Saint John, we read an incident that traces the beginnings of this desire for perfection...

John and Andrew, those young Galilean fishermen, often slipped away to the preaching of John the Baptist. One day, following one of the Baptist's stirring talks, a young stranger passed by. The Precursor looked up and said: "Behold, the Lamb of God!" His words pierced the heart of John like a fiery dart, but he did nothing.

The next day the incident was repeated. On both occasions the stranger said nothing. But this time, John and Andrew stumbled after him. After a short distance, the stranger turned about: "Whom do you seek?" Like youngsters caught in a childish prank, they muttered, "Master, where do you live?" Our Blessed Lord -- for He was the stranger -- answered: "Come and see."

Don't Refuse Christ's Invitation

Our Blessed Lord "looks" upon every soul -- and here is a grace-filled invitation to follow Him. Unfortunately, not every soul imitates John and Andrew. They hesitate -- or they refuse the invitation. Thus, they neglect to stir up their desire for the perfection of their Heavenly Father.

Studying this Gospel incident,we find three stages in the apostles' following of Christ:

The first was their discovery of Christ. It is true that the prophet John pointed out this divine model of perfection. But not before John and Andrew had placed themselves in the occasion of grace by listening to the Baptist's words so filled with unction and inspiration.

Most people fail to make real spiritual progress because they fail to place themselves in the occasions of grace. To prayerfully meditate on a life of Christ or to read the Gospels with simplicity and piety is always such an occasion.

Take the First Steps

The second stage is to take the first steps. Many souls thrill at the beauty of Christ. Their first realization of the attractiveness of His personality awakens a desire in their hearts to follow Him. But they neglect to fan the sparks of their desire into the fires of fervor. They fear the difficulties, or are unwilling to pay the price of the effort involved.

See What God is Like

The final stage is to "go and see" what God is like. John and Andrew spent that entire day in the company of Christ. Later on, they dedicated their whole lives to Him. They teach us that the quest for God takes constant and energetic effort. We need more than a wishy-washy hope of union with God; we must be willing to bulldoze away any obstacle that stands in the way of its fulfillment.

Saint Teresa of Avila for years had led a mediocre life in the convent; she served God only half-heartedly. Only when she took the plunge and broke with her attachments did she begin to make progress. She wrote from her own experience when she said:

"Let us believe that with the divine help and our own efforts we, too, can in the course of time obtain what many saints aided by God finally obtained."

Like John and Andrew, you have to discover Christ -- then take the first steps -- and finally "go and see" what your God is like. He'll be waiting to teach you.

In fact, He will even accompany you!

Fr Kilian MacGowan, C.P., who died in 1998, was the Founding Editor of Compassion Magazine. This article is excerpted from his book, Your Way to God.

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