By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Those who “feel called to transform the world or the Church,” are first called to transform themselves. The logical conclusion to “Do not be comformed to this world,” would seem to be “ ‘so, transform it!’ Instead Paul tells us, ‘Transform yourselves!’ ” says Fr Cantalamessa.
In the world, not of the world
Christians have always understood that the world is and remains “God’s good creation,” we embrace Jesus’ “attitude toward the world”: to be in the world, not of the world. Christians throughout the centuries have lived out this ideal in different ways. After the acceptance of Christianity in the Roman empire, some Christians fled from the world, “desiring to remain the salt of the earth that did not lose its savor.” Others proposed a spiritual flight from the world rather than physical flight. Some Fathers of the Church proposed a flight from the world rooted in baptism which “is a work of grace more that it is human effort.”
It's time to wake up
“Faith is the primary battleground between the Christian and the world. It is through faith that the Christian is no longer ‘of’ the world,” Fr Cantalamessa says. Morally speaking, the world can be defined as “those who refuse to believe.” The world can put people to sleep and suck out “all their spiritual energy.” The remedy is that someone shout “Wake up!” which is “what the Word of God does on so many occasions and which the liturgy of the Church makes us hear again precisely at the beginning of Lent: ‘Awake, O sleeper’ (Eph 5:14); ‘it is full time now for you to wake from sleep’ (Rom 13:11).
The world is passing away
The fundamental reason why Christians “should not be conformed to this world” is because “the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). In today’s world, one important area wherewe should not conform ourselves is that of image. Fr Cantalamessa says that for many people fasting from images has replaced fasting from food and drink. Food and drink are not unclean, but many images are and have become “one of the favorite vehicles through which the world spreads its anti-gospel”, he says.
Let us look at the cross
There is one image on which we should look: “Let us look at a crucifix and go before the Holy One,” Fr Cantalamessa concludes. That image is the remedy for all the poison we have ingested so that we may with Jesus “pass from this world to the Father” (Jn. 13:1).