Bible verse 1: Philippians 1:21
Bible verse 2: Galatians 2:20
There are oh so many things that fill up my life these days. There are the big things, of course, work and family. But there are the little things too: coffee, catching my favorite shows each week, waking up early to get to the gym, coffee (did I mention coffee?). But here, Paul is making a radical statement. Life is Christ. Death is gain. As much as I’d love to wholeheartedly say I echo Paul’s statement, my life simply doesn’t reflect that. And you know what? That’s convicting.
Paul’s attitude of joy shines above all the obstacles he faces. Not only is he thrown in jail, but he is dealing with some haters in the Christian community as well who are preaching Christ out of their own feelings of envy and rivalry. But Paul, through all this sees God’s will, sees how Jesus is working through these obstacles to bring about good.
His imprisonment? Well, it’s encouraged others to proclaim the gospel even more fiercely. The selfish ambition of other people trying to cause Paul trouble? Paul says it doesn’t matter what their motives are, at least the gospel is being proclaimed!
It is so easy to get caught up in my life. In what I want to do. In what she said about me. It’s so easy to forget that, like Paul says in Galatians 2:20
"yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me."
How often do we act like it is Christ who lives in us? How often do we look at a disappointing situation the way Christ would?
One saint who comes to mind when I meditate on cultivating an attitude of joy despite the circumstances is St. Rafael Arnaiz Baron. Born in Spain in 1911, he entered a community of Trappist monks in 1934. Only four months after entering the abbey, he developed diabetes and was forced to rest at home multiple times in those last four years of his life. In the end, he ended up as an oblate (one who lives in society), rather than monk, a disappointing turn of events for the enthusiastic novice. Despite civil war, health problems, and obstacles that came between him and his vocation, St. Rafael stayed humble, renouncing himself and taking up Christ, and truly embodied Paul’s words: “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.”
I’ll admit, it’s a lot easier for me to get up early to do something for me. To make sure I’ve made enough time for my work out and still get through the Starbucks drive through. But when it comes to waking up early for prayer? Or to do a service project on a weekend? I end up hitting the snooze button.
When I take a step back and look at my life, that’s all I see: me. But Paul calls us to allow Jesus to transform our lives. He calls us to conform ourselves to Christ’s love and mercy, to see all things, good and bad, as working towards His Kingdom.
Reflection question 1: What does it mean to you that “To live is Christ”? What things in your life have been distractions from this goal?
Reflection question 2: In what ways can you make Christ more a part of your life? (Try to think of practical things, getting up 5 minutes earlier to pray, saying a rosary in the car instead of listening to music.)
Act: Choose one of the ideas you came up with in question two and be sure to put it into action today!