“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, with great joy in my heart and an assurance of a better and fulfilled year, I welcome you to this New Year 2017 and to our January edition of The Spiritual Pathway. It is a New Year; a year the Lord himself has designed that we be part of, a year the Lord has blessed already. I pray that Mary, the Mother of God, will intercede on our behalf in the many things we hope to achieve in the course of this year.
At the beginning of a New Year, our hearts are always full of plans we wish to execute in the course of the year and goals we hope to attain. These are proper and honourable. But in the midst of all of these, I wish to call our minds to reflect on one fact; this New Year 2017 is an opportunity to begin a new life in Christ.
“Every beginning,” they say, “gives one the opportunity to start again.” If this is true, this New Year is an opportunity to begin a new life in Christ. The past year and years may not have been wonderful in terms of our relationship with Christ and living our lives in him. We may have allowed pride rule our lives and decisions that we forget that God is still in charge of all things. And God hates the proud of heart (Prov. 8;13; 16:5; Jm. 4:6). We may have allowed greed take control of us; wanting everything for ourselves alone and having no considerations for others and even defrauding labourers of their wages. The greedy one is never satisfied and never at rest with himself (Eccl. 5:10; Prov. 11:28). We may have had problem with lust, anger, injustice and perhaps a host of vices. We may have been so dirty in our dealings with people that we have earned even a bad name among those who know us.
Say to yourself this year: ‘I want to have a new life in Christ.’ This is the only guarantee for a better future; a fruitful year 2017 – a new life in Christ. Let us consider the passage of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus (Lk. 19:1-10). He was an outcast and hated by his own people because he was collaborating with the Roman government to collect taxes. For his people, this was betrayal. He was also a thief and sinner. This was because he not only collected taxes on behalf of the Roman government but also extorted his people by forcing them to pay more. His fate was sure. One with such reputation cannot have a good end on judgement day. But his encounter with Jesus changed everything for him; Jesus offered him a new life, a new future and assured him of salvation.
Above all else, a new life in Christ is worth all the sacrifices to have at the beginning of this year. As we begin this New Year, many are worried about getting a new car, new dresses for work and leisure, new phones, new apartment or house, new friends and connections, new business and jobs, and so on. The bottom line is; we want to be happy and successful this year and in life. But the truth is that there cannot be true happiness and success without a life in Christ; the endeavour will be in vain (Mk. 8:36).
St. Paul dared to say, “What more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…” (Phil. 3:8). Who was he before he began to live his life in Christ? He was one of those privileged to have dual citizenship - a Jew and a Roman (Acts 22:28; Phil. 3:4-5). Born of rich parents, he was very educated in Jewish law and tradition. In fact, he was taught by one of the best Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He had a flourishing trade of tent making. And with his education, he would have been respected by people. So, by all worldly standards, Paul was a successful man.
But he counted everything to be worthless when he began to live his life in Christ. He gained more because he came to know the One True God. The joy he felt as he lived his new life in Jesus was immeasurable. He did not only begin to live a new life in Christ but Christ also made a new person out of him. A persecutor of Christians became a follower of Jesus; a man who believed only in the law and nothing else began to preach about grace. He was totally transformed and his life became better for it.
A life or a new life in Christ opens us to greater possibilities, joy and a fulfilled life. That is why I enjoin you as we begin this New Year to also begin a new life in Christ. Then you will see how God will renew and transform everything about your life. Let us pause and reflect on these passages:
- Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Is. 48:18-19).
- For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness (Is. 65:17-25).
- Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3).
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. God bless you and happy New Year!
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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