Sunday, January 01, 2006

All Things New

“He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev. 21:5). That is a word for the final consummation, the ultimate transfiguration of man and cosmos. Yet it is also a word for today. If God can’t renew us now, how is He going to renew all things in the end? But how are things made new?

The first thing that has to be made new is you—and me. Christ isn’t going to renew stones by turning them into bread, but He can renew hearts by making them like unto his own—if we let Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2Cor. 5:17). The key is “in Christ.” We have to be in Christ, through faith, baptism, prayer, repentance and communion, if He is going to be able to renew us. Interior renewal is not simply a divine tour de force; it is the fruit of an intimate relationship, a free exchange of love, open dialogue, and fidelity. For the old to pass away, we have to want it to pass, and we have to make the necessary efforts and sacrifices that will open the gates to God’s transforming grace.

And we must have hope. We must be able to see beyond appearances, even beyond dismal track records. In the film The Passion of the Christ, it was at one of the Lord’s most agonizing moments, when He was most weak and broken under the weight of the Cross, that the screenwriter transferred words from The End to the present moment of humiliation and suffering: “Behold, I make all things new.” At that moment Jesus didn’t look like someone who could pick himself up off the ground, let alone make all things new. But this was the truth, and He began proving it a couple days later.

Yet we still may wish to ask just what is going to be made new. We’re reflecting on these words at the beginning of a new year. What is going to be new this year? Is the Lord going to end all wars, all poverty and hunger, all sorrow and sickness, all anguish and despair, all malice and unbelief? Probably not, though we can certainly hope and pray for advances in all these areas. We have to accept the fact that it will not be until the Kingdom of God is definitively, manifestly, and universally established that we can say: “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Yet by being new creations in Christ, the “former things” of the soul can pass away: the selfishness, the grudges, the disordered desires, the rage, the impurities, the greed. The outer world won’t be renewed until inner worlds are renewed. So that’s where the Lord begins, and where we begin at the beginning of this new year. For the time being we have to learn how to be renewed in the midst of crying and pain and hardship. Only He who has carried the Cross of our sins and sufferings can teach us this.

It is a rather light-hearted (though cynical, if you think about it) wish that all your troubles last only as long as your new year’s resolutions. Perhaps, though, we ought not to resolve to do anything in particular this new year, but to be someone new: a new creation in Christ. All that has to be done will proceed naturally from our transformed identity. Go to confession, open your heart, drop your ego-defenses, and give yourself—as you are, a work in progress—to God and neighbor. You will live with the life of Christ within you, and thus you will be made new. “Remember not the former things… Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Agere sequitur esse: what you do follows from who you are. Let the Lord make of you a new creation, and all things around you will begin to be renewed as well.