4. Let us put on the Spirit of Christ
If you have been baptized in Christ, you have been clothed in Christ.
The purpose of the Congregation of the Mission is to follow Christ, the Evangelizer of the Poor. This purpose is achieved when, faithful to Saint Vincent, the members individually and collectively make every effort to put on the spirit of Christ himself (Common Rules, I, 3) in order to acquire a holiness appropriate to their vocation (Common Rules, XII, 13)…
The end of the Congregation of the Mission, “to follow Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor”, has serious implications for our lives. The first implication is to strive for the achievement of sanctity, i.e., the attainment of that perfection which our missionary vocation demands. For Saint Vincent, this was the principal task for the members of the Company.
1. How Great an Undertaking it Is to Clothe Ourselves in the Spirit of Christ
O Savior! O Gentlemen! what an undertaking to put on the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This means that if we are to be perfect, if we are to serve people effectively, if we are to serve ecclesiastics well, then we must labor to imitate the perfection of Jesus Christ. It also means that of ourselves we can do nothing, and so therefore, we must be filled and animated with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. For this purpose Jesus pours forth his Spirit upon all Christians so that their actions and their works might be orientated by the Spirit of God. God has raised up this Little Company to act in the same manner as Jesus, and so we ought to have a profound love for the Christian maxims and desire to clothe ourselves with the spirit of the Gospel, to live and act as our Lord lived and acted, and to act in such a way that his Spirit may be manifested in the Company as a whole, and in each of its individual missionaries, in all of their works.1
2. Since We Share in the Life of Jesus, So Too, We Share in His Death
To put on Jesus Christ is not merely to wrap oneself in some exterior garment which covers the body, rather, to clothe oneself in Jesus is to be transformed completely, interiorly and exteriorly. Saint Paul says that this acceptance of Jesus Christ signifies a profound moral and religious transformation. Indeed, Saint Paul refers to a total transformation which has its origins in baptism. Thus the new person is born.
Saint Vincent used this same Pauline expression when he counseled a young superior about putting on the Spirit of Christ:
Empty yourself in order to put on Jesus Christ. You know that every cause produces an effect, so a sheep begets a sheep, etc., and a man another man. So, too, if he who guides and forms and speaks to others is motivated by a wordly spirit, then he will inspire them to act in a wordly manner. But when our Lord imprints his mark on us and gives us his Spirit and grace, we, being united to him as the branches are united to the vine, will do what he did when he was on earth.2
Our identification with Jesus ought to be so complete that we would be ashamed to die in our own bed knowing that Jesus died on the cross. Saint Vincent wrote:
Remember that since we share in the life of Jesus, so, too, we share in his death, and if we wish to die like Jesus, then we must live like Jesus.3
3. With All One’s Strength
“To be totally dedicated”, “to strive”, “to work with all of one’s strength”,—these are expressions which Saint Vincent used to express the effort that ought to be exerted by the members of the Congregation of the Mission in striving for holiness. For holiness is that state of perfection which is proper to the missionary calling. Holiness is that state of perfection which is the principal and primary goal of the missionary:
In order that this Congregation, aided by divine grace, may attain the end which it has proposed to itself, it is necessary that it make every effort to put on the Spirit of Christ.4
- Have I experienced the relationship that exists between dedication to putting on Christ and dedication to the apostolate?
- Do I have some plan for clothing myself in Christ today?
O God, through your power and mercy, may I be totally transformed and converted. May my hands and tongue be like those of Jesus. May my understanding, my memory and my heart be identified with the understanding, the memory and the heart of Jesus. May I act as Jesus acted. O heavenly Father, speak to me the same words you spoke to your Son: “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” We pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever. Amen.