Life in the Spirit Online Seminar
Week 7   Transformation in Christ
Transformation in Christ
by Deacon Ken Johanning
          In the Gospel of Mark, we hear the first words Jesus speaks as He begins His public ministry:
                   “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee,
                   proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,
                   'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has
                   come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'” (Mk 1:14-15)
In Matthew 4:17,  the first words Jesus says are, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
   It is important that we understand what Jesus meant when He used the word we translate as “repent”.  He did not mean fasting or vigils or whatever else appeals to us.  Rather, Jesus meant that we need to change the direction of our lives.  We need to change how we are looking for happiness and fulfillment in our lives. 
          This seventh and final session of the Life in the Spirit Seminar, Transformation in Christ, concludes the Seminar exactly where Jesus Christ's ministry begins.  Our lives must be transformed and we realize that Jesus' kingdom is “on Earth as it is in Heaven”, as He taught us to pray.
          Nothing we have learned, or come to believe, or have experienced will mean anything unless our lives are turned around, transformed, and we begin to live this new life in the Spirit.  Living this new life in the Spirit will impel us to share it with others as we spread the kingdom of God right here on Earth.
          As we begin this new life, there are two basic things we really need to accept so that we can share them with others. We must accept God's love and His gift of salvation.  These were the topics of the first two sessions of the Seminar.  God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to be tortured and to die on a cross to win our salvation.  “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)  The verse prior to this much quoted verse says, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up”.  This verse refers to Jesus' glorification after His resurrection, but it also refers to His being lifted up on the cross.  There is no glory, no salvation, without the suffering of Jesus.  To be one with Jesus, we must accept the suffering that comes our way.  This is part of the transformation we must make.
          In session three, we talked about the gift of new life.  This means that we turn to Jesus Christ in a new way.  There are personal changes that come when we experience the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  In Jn 10:10, Jesus puts it this way, “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.”  Fr. Francis Martin described baptism in the Spirit as fulfilling a need in our time.  He said, “It is a grace by which people are enabled in ever more profound ways to interpret reality correctly, to understand the significance of the way God is acting in history, and to have confidence in Him.  It is a real grace for those who live in a culture where practically nothing is attributed to God.”
          As we turn toward God in the process of transformation, we must turn away from all those other things that get in the way of our relationship with God.  We must look to Jesus as the only Lord in our lives, serving Him alone.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation  helps us to eliminate any other false gods from our lives and return to the true God.  As we surrender our old lives and turn to God, the Holy Spirit begins to fill us with the new life.  We experience a conversion, a transformation, and the graces we received in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation come alive. 
          When we receive the baptism in the Spirit, we need to realize that we have not reached the fullness of the Spirit.  In fact, although we may feel that we have had a mountain top experience, we have actually only just begun the journey.  Think about the impact the Transfiguration of Jesus would have had on Peter, James and John.  Yet they still had so much to learn, right up to the day of Pentecost and even beyond, as the Spirit continued to work in their lives.  One of the beautiful aspects of the Acts of the Apostles is the constant transformation of Peter as he grows in his understanding of just what the Christian community is supposed to be. In Jn 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.  Those who remain in me and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”  For our gifts to yield results, we must stay closely united to Jesus or we will be barren.  We need the nourishment from the vine, especially in the Eucharist, to grow and mature as disciples of Christ.  We need to set aside time each day for prayer and reading the Bible to maintain our attachment to Jesus, the vine.  Then we, as branches, “will bear much fruit”. In conclusion, let us go back to Jesus' first instruction, “Repent.”  Change the direction of your life or change the direction in which you are looking for happiness (for God).  This implies that we are looking in the wrong place.  We need to get rid of what we think is important in our lives, and yield to what the Holy Spirit knows is important for our lives.  Then the process of transformation can begin in us.
“Not that I am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”      (Phil 3:12)
Words of Life
Day 1:
            The Holy Spirit is at work in you.  He wants to change you, to give you a better life, to make you holier.  You can rely on him and his work in your life.  Jesus did not leave you on your own to work things out.  God’s word promises:
                        “God is at work in you for his own loving purposes, and he puts both the will and action into you" (Phil 2:13)
Day 2:
            Never let this truth dim in your mind; there is nothing as worthwhile as knowing Christ and belonging to him.  Your greatest treasure is the life you have in Christ.  Give up everything to keep that life and grow in it.  God’s word says:
                        “I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my lord.  For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him (Phil 3:8-9)
Day 3:
            Sometimes you will run into trials.  Friends will misunderstand you, your family may try to make you give up, you will experience doubts, fears, confusion.  But all these things can be means of growth and change for the better if you go through them in faith.  God’s word promises:
                                    “My brothers, you will always have your trials, but when they come treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.(Jas 1:2-4)
Day 4:
            God is with you.  Never forget that.  He loves you and is with you and will never desert you.  No matter what trial you have to face, the LORD WHO LOVES YOU IS WITH YOU.  God’s word promises: “The trials that you have had to bear are no more than people normally have.  You can trust God not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with any trial he will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it.” (I Cor 10:13)
Day 5:
            If you are faithful to God and love him, everything will work out to your good.  There is nothing that will happen to you that will not be a source of deeper and better life to you.  The Lord brings good out of evil.  His word promises:
            “We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose.”
(Rom 8:28)
Day 6:
            You cannot be fully united to Christ without being united to the body of Christ.  If you love Christ, love his body, love those who belong to him.  If you want to belong to Christ, join yourself to his body, stay close to other Christians.  God’s word says:
                                    “Just as each of our bodies has several parts and each part has a separate function, so all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.
(Rom 12:4-5)
Day 7:
            Jesus will work in your life through the Church and through other Christians.  He wants you to take a care for the life of the Christian community and for helping other Christians.  Be faithful to the meetings of the Christians who have helped you find new life in the Spirit.  God’s word says:“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.  Do not stray away from the meetings of the community, as some do, but encourage each other to go.”
(Heb 10:24-25)
            This week the two chapters we will read are about the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection: John 20, Revelations 21