Advent and Christmas is always associated with the coming of Jesus. This ‘coming’ happens in many dimensions – At our Baptism, at a time as adults when we truly decide to be faithful to Him, the time of our encounter with the Lord leading to a living relationship with Him, at the time of sincere repentance and surrender during prayer, at Holy Mass when one’s heart is thirsting for Him, at the time of our death, and lastly is what is referred to as the second ‘coming’ of Christ or ‘parousia’. Jesus comes in all these circumstances.
As Catholic adults, we need to allow for Jesus to “come” to us daily! He is knocking at the door of our hearts, and will “come” only if the door is opened (Rev 3:20). When Christ comes, our worldliness has to go!
What exactly is worldliness?
All of us are broken people. All of us need healing and inner peace. Worldliness is looking for and seeking pleasure in the things of the world. It is a type of behavior which causes a person to seek comfort, healing and affirmation in vain past times and in various activities in order to attain the inner peace which only Jesus gives. These activities include being overly preoccupied with career, material concerns and financial investments, shopping and excessive spending, unnecessary indulgence in food and drink, desiring and buying expensive clothing, partying, over involvement in social media, watching non edifying movies, and other activities which cater to self indulgence. Though non-sinful in a sense, these indicate the craving of the human heart for love and peace! Also indicated is that subconsciously, the person is not seeking the true giver of the love and peace – the Lord Jesus Himself! While these activities of worldliness may not be sinful and are not totally forbidden, the question arises – Are we using or misusing the things of the world?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.1 John 2:15-17
The reality is that many of us Christians are worldly people. This happens alongside of going to church and being involved in spiritual activities. Are our priorities Christ-centred? Is our identity in Christ or in the things that the world gives? We are called to live in the true spirit of Christmas all the year around every single day! Are we giving the Lord more and more opportunities to “come” into our lives? Or are we denying ourselves the action of the Holy Spirit by being worldly? Can we truly say from our hearts, “He must increase, but I must decrease!” (John 3:30) and cry out like the psalmist,
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24
Inner transformation is at the heart of the gospel message and at the core of Christianity! This happens over time. Human co-operation and sincere prayer along with a desire for holiness bring down divine assistance and Heaven’s graces, and this is how Jesus comes! Again – When Christ comes, our worldliness has to go!
“There exists, indeed, a sort of spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, and which leads to the pursuit not of the glory of God, but rather of personal well-being.”Pope Francis (23rd Jan, 2015)
A regular human tendency is to put up a false front, knowingly and unknowingly. We all fall short and run the risk of doing this. Self awareness, repentance and our action to root out this vice are the need of the hour.
The Urgency of this topic
Just as oil and water do not mix, so also the Holy Spirit and worldliness do not go together. Jesus wants to “come” into our lives! For this to happen, the necessary space has to be prepared for him. This is a figurative expression concerning our hearts. The topic is urgent because it connects to our salvation and eternal calling! Who among us do not want to go to Heaven!
“This world and the world to come are two enemies. We cannot therefore be friends to both; but we must decide which we will forsake and which we will enjoy.”Pope St. Clement I
This does not mean that we become overly austere, frugal and live like hermits. We are not called to forsake everything physically and head for monasteries and convents. Detachment is not about being “without”, but is a holy virtue of not being controlled by anything that the world gives. The cravings of our hearts will tell us what our priorities are. External piety and outward spirituality do not indicate the truth of what is hidden inside.
“When you find your intellect occupied pleasurably with material things, you may be sure that you love these things more than God. ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ (Matt. 6:21)”St. Maximus the Confessor
Rooting out Worldliness – Now Jesus can truly “come”!
We are all called to conform ourselves to be more like Jesus. This happens over time if we desire and pray for God’s help. In the process of this happening, many uncomfortable truths about ourselves will be revealed to us. We see our sinfulness more clearly and become more remorseful. This pleases God and He, in turn, provides necessary grace. Certain parts of our lives may need to be cut off and pruned. This is God’s work.
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.John 15:2
This is a painful part of spiritual growth, but is very necessary and highly rewarding. Are we willing to undergo change in order to become the people God wants us to be? Are we willing to be disciplined so that we can bear fruit as the Lord wants? Are we willing to let go of some of our comforts in order to enjoy deeper intimacy with God? There is pain in the process, but there is also joy in the journey! Jesus “comes” in this situation of cleansing and sanctification. It is a move towards holiness, and without this move happening, Jesus cannot really “come” (Heb 12:14)!
Renunciation is the key! We simply have to become less egoistic and more selfless in order to live out an authentic friendship with Christ! Let us look into ourselves during this season and say “yes” to the Lord. The Holy Spirit may guide us in various methods and through different people. This is also a way that Jesus can “come” into our lives! We need to be open-minded and humble if we want this wonderful outcome of the Lord’s presence and manifestation in the situations that we struggle with. Inner healing and freedom is experienced in proportion to our letting go of our attachments and taking necessary steps to reduce our worldliness! God provides strength in our weakness and He makes the way for a favorable result! Our strength is in the Lord! A reminder yet again, as in the title of this article – When Christ comes, our worldliness has to go!
“For this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”Nehemiah 8:10
[Published in The Tabor Kirana, December 2021]