The Dignity and Responsibility of Being a Christian1. It is a great dignity to be a Christian. By Baptism we become sons of God, heirs to Heaven, temples of the Holy Spirit, and members of the Mystical Body of Jesus, which is the Church. God's grace raises us to the supernatural order and makes us, as St. Paul expresses it, sharers in the divine nature. By the sacrament of Confirmation the Holy Spirit fortifies our faith and gives us the strength to resist the temptations of the devil and to fight like loyal soldiers for the triumph in ourselves and in others of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The sacrament of Penance is our plank of salvation in the shipwreck of sin. Although we are all wretched sinners, by this gift of the divine mercy we can recover our lost innocence and return to the grace and friendship of God. Moreover, in order to prevent us from falling back into sin, Jesus gives us Himself in the Blessed Eucharist, which is called by St. Thomas the greatest miracle of His infinite love. (Opusc. 57) But this is not all. If it is our vocation to form a family, God consecrates our union at the altar and gives us the graces necessary to sanctify it so that it may produce a good Christian family. If God has called us, on the other hand, to become spiritual fathers of the souls redeemed by His Precious Blood, He raises us to this high dignity by the sacrament of Holy Orders. Finally, when we shall have come to the end of our mortal lives, the priest will be still by our side to wash away by the sacrament of Extreme Unction the last traces of sin and to comfort us in our passage to eternity. The whole life of a Christian is a chain of favours which accompany him from the cradle to the grave. We should be grateful to God for the goodness with which He has treated us and continues to treat us. We should co-operate generously with His gifts by recognising the lofty honour it is to be a Christian and by living in accordance with this dignity.
2. This exalted dignity carries with it grave obligations. The most important is to avoid sin. Who would dare to take the Crucifix and fling it in the mud? “You are the body of Christ,” St. Paul tells us, “member for member.” (Cf. 1 Cor. 12:27) A man who surrenders himself to sin, therefore, throws the body of Christ into the mud and profanes the temple of the Holy Spirit. If we sincerely appreciate our dignity as Christians we cannot possibly give way to sin and destroy in ourselves the great work of the Redemption of Christ. We should, moreover, practise virtue. We should live in and for Jesus, like St. Paul, who said “For to me to live is Christ...” (Phil. 1:21) Every day we must travel further along the difficult road of self-denial and love. We must keep going forward, higher and higher towards the summit of perfection. “You are to be perfect,” Jesus tells us, “even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) Even this is not enough, however. A genuine Christian is not satisfied with avoiding sin and sanctifying himself, but he tries by every means at his disposal, by word, action, good example and sacrifice, to spread the kingdom of Christ among his fellow-men.
3. Let us examine ourselves particularly on the duties of our state and see if we are fulfilling them generously. Not only are we obliged to obey the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, but each of us must carry out also the obligations attached to his position in life. We are well aware of what these obligations are. Naturally, they vary from person to person. Let us remember that God gives each of us the graces necessary for his state and that we shall have to account for the way we have used these before the Eternal Judge. The man who has received a lot will have to account for a lot. Perhaps we have received a very large share of graces. If so, besides the general duties attached to the dignity of being Christians, we have other important obligations which, as Christians, we must carry out generously.
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