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Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
As Easter approaches we should be sure totake time to prepare our souls. And what better way to prepare than to consider the great gift we have been given—the gift of eternal life paid for by the blood of our Lord. This is not just a gift for the future, but a gift for us now as well, and it should have a tremendous impact on our lives. This was poignantly expressed sixteen centuries ago by St. John Chrysostom (somewhat paraphrased):
Since as we have partaken of so great a gift, let us do everything not to dishonor such a benefit. For if before Christ what was done was worthy of punishment, how much more now after this unspeakable benefit! I say this because I see many after their baptism living more carelessly than the unbaptized, and having nothing peculiar to distinguish them in their way of life. It is, you see, for this reason that neither in the market nor in the Church is it possible to know quickly who is a believer and who is an unbeliever; unless one is present at the time of the holy Eucharist and sees the one person present and another absent. But they ought to be distinguished not by their attendance, but by their way of life. That is, the believer ought to be manifest not only by the gift, but also by the new life. The believer ought to be the light and salt of the world. But when you do not even shed light on yourself, how are we to know that you are a believer? Because you have entered into the holy waters of baptism? No! This becomes a source of punishment to you. For such an honor becomes an increase in vengeance to those who do not live worthy of the honor. The believer ought to brightly shine not only with what he has received from God, but also with what he himself has contributed. He should be discernible by everything: by his gait, by his look, by his garb, by his voice.
As Christians, are we recognizable by our gait, our look, our garb, and our voice? Too often the ways we do stand out are not owing to our holiness. We should not be obnoxious, but kind. We should not be miserly, but generous. We should not be dour, but joyful.
Our lives should be beacons to others. But, to quote Chrysostom, when we do not even shed light on ourselves, how are others to know that we are believers? And if we are no different from unbelievers, then of what value is our belief? If knowing Christ has had such little power to change our lives, then what do we have to offer to a dying world?
We are called to be different. We are called to be holy. We must remember that piety and holiness rarely come upon a person instantly and remain there. Like fine wines we often take a long time to mature. This is why Lent does not begin on Good Friday but many weeks before. It takes time to prepare our souls to adequately come face to face with the risen Lord. It takes time to change our gait, our look, our garb, and our voice. It takes time to shed enough light on our own soul to see the image of God in it. It takes time, on our knees, alone with God. Let us make the most of the time we have this Lenten season.