Debra Black reflects upon the hope-filled re-creation in Christ that Easter brings.
I bud forth delights like a vine; my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit. (Sirach 24:17)
Eastertide is a season of new creation. We are a resurrection people, springing forth into new life like the budding flower that bursts into bloom. Our mass readings this week reflect this too. In times of desolation, however, this hope-filled re-creation in Christ can seem to be meant for everyone except me.
One of Satan’s hallmarks is the universal negative. He leads us to think our situation will never change, or that we cannot change. “It will always be like this” or “I will always be a loser.” This then leads to believing the lies that we are unloved, unlovable, or unworthy.
When Jesus looks at you, He does not see your sin. He sees through your sin to the image of God still remaining.
Yet looking in the mirror, we see a human face and realize the Son of God chose to take on a human face like our own. As long as our lives reflect His, His Spirit remains within us gifting us with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and awe of His marvelous works. Engaging these gifts further conforms us to His likeness, making it easier to act like Him. He has given us the honor of a mind and heart to think and love as He does. It cannot be earned; it is pure gift and gives every person an inherent dignity as a real child of God. Just as flowers come forth from the plant that gives them its lifeblood, we are the blossoms of His vine that grow into His rose. This is the pruning of which Jesus speaks:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you." (John 15:1-3)
As with a rose bush, pruning is not a once-and-done event. The bush is pruned as needed throughout its life. Our initial grafting onto the vine takes place at Baptism. Thereafter we are pruned with confession and Eucharist, but also abide in Him through prayer and growth in virtue. St. Thomas Aquinas explains:
As Augustine says, he [the Father] opens our hearts with the plow of his words, plants the seeds of the commandments, and harvests the fruit of devotion. But we cultivate him [cultivate God’s wisdom] in order that we might be made better through him.
St. Thomas further explains:
If we are well-disposed and united to God, yet scatter our love over many things, our virtue becomes weak and we become less able to do good. This is why God, in order that we may bear fruit, will frequently remove such obstacles and prune us by sending troubles and temptations, which make us stronger.
The enemy will lure our attention inward and blind us to our beauty so that we only see the sinfulness. Jesus is always close by, ready to graft us back onto Himself through the Sacraments and prayer. Receiving His body and blood in the Eucharist brings Him into the depth of our soul where His Spirit sanctifies it. No creature, not even Satan, can enter into our soul. With each Holy Communion we are being re-created in Him.
There is nothing that can prevent us from growing into His perfect rose except our free will. No sin nor human act is more powerful that His love. But He will always give us the choice to choose or reject Him.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm. (Song of Songs 8:6)
When you look in the mirror, choose Him. Reject the lies of the enemy and ask our Lord for His eyes to see yourself as He does, for He has already proclaimed you to be very good (Genesis 1:31). Stand in awe of the very real fact that your God who truly is God, without beginning or end, chooses to bring His infinite perfections into your body and soul. Make your heart to be the sanctuary for His own. Close the veil of your heart so that nothing enters it but Him. Then stay with Him in that sanctuary as you go through the duties of the day. Let Him change your life.
You shall be called by a new name bestowed by the mouth of the Lord. (Isaiah 62:2b)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
Copyright 2023 Debra Black
About the Author
Debra Black is a spiritual director, perpetual member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, international educator, and businesswoman. Her public service roles have spanned city commissioner, pregnancy clinic board of directors, youth and college ministry, public citizen activism, and homeless street ministry. Her writings can be found at TheFaceOfGraceProject.com, including her latest books, The Life Confession: A Discovery of God’s Mercy and Love and Kick Butt: The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare.