What is it I really believe? It's remarkable, unthinkable really! Not only is the idea of glorification in Christ the most lofty, to-good-to-be-true idea conceivable, but the way in which this glorification takes place in the here and now continually baffles my imagination, not to mention my immediate experience.
It's said that we have been made "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). That's really the end goal of the Incarnation - the whole point of Christianity - is it not? Often we lose sight of the end goal and focus exclusively on redemption and forgiveness; but by uniting with Jesus' sacred humanity in baptism, our own humanity is healed (set free from sin), perfected, and elevated. We are taken up into the divine life. Do I really internalize this aspect of salvation? How often do I really experience it? And how does that even work, right?
That's the unthinkable part. Divine life was lived out perfectly in human history. 2000 years ago, God walked the earth as a man. Everything Jesus did, therefore, he did not just as a man but as an eternal being - as God. Every one of his (human) actions are eternal. They're outside of time. They're... accessible now.
And that's not even the unthinkable part. The most baffling claim of all is what happens when we access that life. It's not some abstract transformation or healing force, it's an encounter with a living person, specifically the resurrected and glorified Jesus. And it's not just an encounter either. It's a possession of sorts! The unthinkable claim is that the life Jesus lived 2000 years ago - because it's eternal, transcending space and time, and therefore accessible to me in this very moment - he now begins to live in me through the grace of baptism. Let me say that again. The life Jesus lived 2000 years ago is at present being lived out in my own life. That's what it means to put on Christ. That's the result of redemption and forgiveness, and that's the climactic appeal of the "Good News" Christianity professes.
Do you see the unthinkable in this claim? I'm not even sure I can count the ways my mind begins to spin off into overload. And it's here that my faith is really being tested lately.
I thought I understood the salvation thing. How amazing it is that I've been forgiven for my sins! How unbelievable it is that we have a God who loves us no matter what we've done, or ever will do! We have a Father in heaven who loves us with a love more intense and more perfect than the purest human love.
But glorification? This idea of being "in Christ"? This idea of Christ being in me? Now I'm struggling to keep up. Is this a future event, or am I somehow living it now? Saint Paul, in just a few short letters, says the phrase "in Christ" 165 times! I think he was trying to get me to understand something.
Jesus is in me. Right now! And he wants to reign in me. He wants to live his life in me. That life he lived 2000 years ago, he lived for me. Jesus gives me that life, and the more I allow him to live through, with, and in me, the more fully I discover my own life. I was made for him. I was created to live that life.
But how do I know it's working! I want so badly to say with Saint Paul, "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). Instead, however, I'm usually stuck echoing his lamentation: "I do the things I do not want to do, and the things I want to do I do not do" (Romans 7:19). How do I know this "life of grace" thing is working?
Every day I struggle to love. I struggle to give myself to my wife and my three beautiful children. I struggle to care about the needs of my neighbor over my own selfish desires. But sometimes I succeed and it's beautiful. There's peace. My relationships are whole. And my hope is that through those moments my heart is being given over more and more to his. I don't always know that it's working. Often my experience suggests otherwise. My feelings betray my faith. But that's when I say the simplest, and most sincere prayer I have in my arsenal: "Jesus, I trust in you."
I think it's the theological virtue of hope. That's how I know it's working. I trust more and more now that my elevation into the divine life is not the gift I receive once my heart has been healed and perfected. Not at all! Rather, my participation in the divine life (the life of Jesus) is the means by which my heart is being healed and perfected. Even when I fall, I keep saying yes to his love and my trust grows. I'm staying close to the Sacraments, and I'm beginning to realize his Real Presence in me. My hope grows. And I do notice real change in my heart. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).