Mumbai Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) | SPIRITUAL LADDER


17th August, 2015
Mr.Francis D'souza (Courtesy Charisindia Magazine) SPIRITUAL LADDER
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:29
In the above Scripture Paul is saying that God's purpose is to make us like Jesus. The Father was so pleased with His Son (cf Matt 3:17 & 17:5) that He is determined to fill all of heaven with others just like Him.
How we respond to the issues of life will determine whether we are becoming like Jesus or no. are we becoming bitter or better? Through our testings and trials, chastenings and purifications, denials and sufferings God is carrying out the work of perfecting us.
Another indicator of us becoming like Jesus is the handling of those people referred to as ‘our enemies’ – those who curse us, hate us, ill-treat us and even persecute us. Are we handling them the way the world prescribes - pay back with the same coin, or eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth? Or are we doing it the Jesus way? Remember He not only advocates it but practiced it himself. Let us refer to Matt 5:44 – He says:
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matt 5:44) NKJV
Jesus gives us the clarion call “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48) who shares the warmth of the sun without partiality. He gives the life-giving rain without discrimination. He extends common grace to the righteous as well as the rebellious
Although we will never reach that level, but yet it remains the target, the ideal, the goal set before us and we must strive towards it. Like holiness, perfection too is not a destination but a journey. That is why Paul is telling us in 2 Cor 7:1 ….perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  In order to achieve this call, Jesus has provided us with a ladder or staircase. This will also help us in responding as a Christian to persecutions of different kinds we are facing all around the world.  
Step 1 - Pray. Fervent prayer connects us to God and thus we are able to tap into His power. This power strengthens us and gives us the ability to bear injustice, to face persecutions, to  overlook the faults of others and to forgive our offenders.  It also dispels feelings of hatred, revenge and discouragement. Prayer is a solvent and glue. It helps resolve differences, clear misunderstandings and also heals and restores relationships. Prayer is the soil in which hope and healing grow best. The purpose of prayer is not only to get what we want, but to become what God wants us to be - peacemakers. We must therefore resort to prayer as our first response rather than our last resort.
Jesus was a victim of injustice and was so brutally tortured and yet before dying he forgave his ‘enemies.’ But notice the words of his prayer in Luke 23:34 - “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Humanly speaking it was very difficult for him to forgive, and hence he is asking his Father to forgive them. It was only the grace of God that enabled him to forgive the offenders.  This is the same course of action which Stephen, the-first martyr of the church took. Prayer so transforms us that it causes us to overlook the ill treatment by others, in fact it leads us to do good to them - even ‘enemies’.
Step 2 – Do Good. According to Ephesians 2:10 we were created in Christ to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. The whole life of Jesus can be summed up in one sentence “He went about doing good” (cf Acts 10:38). Therefore by doing good we imitate Jesus.      
People can be unreasonable, illogical, self-centered; Love them anyway.
If you do good, some will accuse you of selfish motives; Do good anyway
If you succeed, you may win false friends and true enemies; Succeed anyway
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow; Do good anyway
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable; Be honest anyway
What takes years to build may be destroyed overnight; Build well anyway
Sinners don’t always want to hear the gospel; Witness lovingly anyway!
As a progressive step of doing good we are now lead to bless our enemy and wish them well.
Step 3 - Bless. The Bible reminds us that we are called to be a blessing and to bless. In Genesis   12:2 God says to Abram (later Abraham) "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Also refer Rom 12:14 & Luke 6:28). The Catechism of the Catholic in paragraph 1669 affirms the same when it says “Every baptized person is called to be a blessing and to bless.” Therefore we must remember that God blesses us so that we may bless others. And as we pray, do good and bless even our enemies, we arrive at the topmost rung of the ladder which is also the ultimate call of Christianity - LOVE.
Step 4 - Love. What makes a Christian unique? What makes a Christian different?  John 13:35 has the answer where Jesus says “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (‘enemies’ included) - this is love beyond all boundaries and logic. This love manifests itself in concrete actions. Jesus lists a few of them in the Sermon on the Mount - love of enemies, blessing of opponents, giving without counting the cost, lending without expecting it back, avoiding all judgment and condemnation, and forgiving at all times. We should so love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19) thus love is no longer a mere “command”, rather it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.
Christianity is a religion of love. Love is the hallmark quality and foundation of our religion. Further, love of God and love of neighbor are the pillars on which the Scriptures rest (Matt. 22:37-39) and it is the Scriptures on which our faith is based.  Scriptures tell us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and that we cannot love God whom we cannot see if we cannot love our fellowmen whom we can see and feel. (1 John 4:20). 
God is love and His love is perfect and non-discriminatory therefore we are called to imitate God in the way He loves. There is a seeming contradiction in the “love” command as quoted by Jesus in Matt 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
The first half of this is found in Moses’ law (Lev 19:18). The second part was found in how the scribes and Pharisees explained and applied the Old Testament command. Jesus’ application is the opposite and results in a much higher standard. However, we must remember that the Old Testament too does talk of the love of enemy – “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Prov 25:21)
 Jesus’ love command is the only way to break the vicious circle of hatred and revenge – to  begin to treat our ‘enemies’ as fellow-children of God and hence we should take time to pray for those who do not get along well with us.
Returning evil for good is devilish, returning good for good is human, returning good for evil is divine.
Loving those who love us, blessing those who bless us, doing good to those who do good to us, praying for those who pray for us, all seems to be logical, natural, and easy to do. But Jesus is asking us to go beyond the natural realm. In fact he is asking us to be Godlike in that we must love unconditionally and without discrimination. Let’s look at Matt 5:46-48 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Further, Jesus’ love ethics does not ask for mere tolerance but for active love. As followers of Jesus we should respond to insult with praise, to attacks with kindness, to hatred with love. This stamps us unmistakably as genuine followers of Jesus Christ.
Followers of Jesus must love others to a heroic degree and so become with Jesus, children of the Most High thus manifesting the life of God among mankind.
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. –Orsborn