In today’s second reading, St Paul urges the Christian community at Ephesus to get a makeover. They must throw away the old self, he says, and put on the new self.
Paul wasn’t offering them sartorial advice or suggesting that they upgrade their physical appearance in order to look ten years younger. He wasn’t talking about makeup or fashion at all, but about a transformation of mind and spirit. The followers of Jesus in Ephesus must not go on living the aimless kind of lives that pagans live, but become whole new people in Christ, renewed by a spiritual revolution. They must be changed, reformed, transformed, into a Godly people.
Paul knew what he was talking about. His own dramatic experience on the road to Damascus changed his life completely. He threw away the old self and put on the new self.
He even began using a new name. Through his encounter with the risen Lord, Paul’s life had been upended utterly. Our encounter with the risen Lord, the bread of life, must upend and transform our lives, too.
Pray for those who struggle with belief. Pray for yourself and for Christians everywhere for a deeper faith in Jesus, the bread of life.
Acouple of years ago, young American writer Jia Tolentino wrote a book called Trick Mirror. It’s a collection of essays on the challenges facing young women today. One essay is entitled “Always be Optimizing”. It’s about the pressure women have always felt to look good, be attractive. The need to always be optimising; in other words, trying always to look better, be thinner, more glamorous, sexier, to never be satisfied with your appearance or success.
It’s not only women who feel this pressure nowadays. Young men feel it increasingly too – the need to work out, to be ripped, athletic, desirable.
Our competitive world pressurises us to be acknowledged as successful, with a rewarding career and a big income, a perfect family and a nice house. To always be optimising. Social media, with its obsession with looks and money and celebrity, makes being your authentic self even harder. It’s a reason why sales of makeup, even to young men, are booming. Image is everything.
It explains why Reality TV shows like Ten Years Younger and 100% Hotter are so popular. On these shows, participants receive a makeover that alters or enhances how they look, bringing out or highlighting their best features. Seeing their before and after pics is like looking at a completely different person. We see the difference a new look can make, its transformative effect.
Liturgy is also about transformation. We are invited to give up our old way of life, and put on the new self, one created in God.
The new self we are invited to put on is not as simple as getting a new wardrobe or hairstyle like the participants on a TV show, or giving up home and family and livelihood. Rather, it is about making sure that God is the director of our lives, that God shapes everything we do every day.
Putting on the new self means putting on God. It means following the example of Jesus, and allowing ourselves to be moulded in his image. It means knowing that Jesus is our bread of life, who nourishes and sustains us, and gives us everything that we need.
Today is the feast of St Alphonsus de Ligouri,founder of the Redemptorists. A native of Naples in Italy, Alphonsus was a successful lawyer before becoming a priest. In 1732, while visiting the Amalfi coast, he was struck by the plight of the poor farmers and goatherds of the area who had been largely abandoned by Church and State.
- He founded the Redemptorists to minister especially tothose who were poor and marginalised.
- St Alphonsus was also a moral theologian and author of more than 100 books.
- In 1871, he was declared a doctor of the Church.
- Today,more than 5,000 Redemptorists ministerthroughout the world.
Think about what is most important to you, what you long for most. How strong is your hunger for God? Where do you turn for nourishment, for help, for life? Does God sustain you?
Who or what gives direction to your life? Is God at its centre?