By Mark Davis Pickup
Keep us true in the faith,
proclaiming that Christ is you Son,
who is one with you in eternal glory,
became man and was born to a virgin mother.
Free us from all evil
and lead us to the joy of eternal life.
— From the book of CHRISTIAN PRAYER: The Liturgy of the Hours
Christ left eternity and entered time so we could leave time to enter eternity with Him. The Incarnation is the Creator's expression of perfect love for imperfect creatures endowed with the Creator's image and likeness. He desires that we cultivate and develop that divine Image within us to become more like Him. Who is the Creator? Well, if the Bible is true and God-inspired (which it is), He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The triune God of the Bible: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who is the Son? The Son is Jesus Christ; He was preexistent to his birth in Bethlehem. We read in the gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." From my time governed, 3-dimensional physical world, it's hard to understand what the Apostle was referring to in this divinely inspired passage.
I have such a pea-sized, cloudy mind but let this layman go out on theological limp. I think of God as a Being rather like a divine eternal Thought; Christ is the Word that expresses that divine Thought. The Spirit animates the Divine Thought. We find the Spirit of God animating the Thought of God in the creation account.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1.1-2, NIV, [emphasis added.])
Although some Bible translations use the word wind, other translations such as the New International Version above and the New King James Version use the word Spirit. The word Spirit of God is more appropriate to my analogy of trying to understand more about the Trinity.
If God can be likened to a being that is a Thought, what is the Thought? PERFECT DIVINE LOVE. Jesus Christ is the exact representation, the perfect imprint of God. Even in human form He was Deity. This is why Christ identified the greatest Commandment: "You shall the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Later he expanded this law of love by saying: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Divine love is expansive! Didn't the Saviour say this "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”? Yes, that’s exactly what Jesus said. It is the very definition of expansive love!
God's love desires that we draw near Him and be conformed to the image of His Son. God longs jealously for the spirit he planted in us. The Apostle Paul said: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." In another place the Apostle said of those who believe and follow Christ:
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
It is the expansive, transforming love of God that gradually conforms us to the image of Christ. Divine love permeates the Spirit of the Lord, and believers who are being conformed to Christ's image discover the liberty of Divine love; that which was temporal and worldly gradually transforms to that which is spiritual and eternal. That is the reason for the Christian's pilgrimage toward the Celestial City.
The crux of God's yearning is that we spend eternity with Him. God does not want any to be lost. He wants to be loved just as we are loved by Him. The point of human existence is to love God and others who bear His image. But God will not force humanity to love Him and spend with Him. He is the Divine lover not a divine jailer. While it is true that God will accept a person in their broken and imperfect state, it is also true that He will not leave them that way. C.S. Lewis put it this way: "We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.’ To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable."
A person who says "I can be a good person without being a Christian" does not understand the point of life. God does not want us to be merely good, he wants us to be perfect. (When I use the word “perfect,” I mean “holy.”) Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Our way to perfection is through Christ and continually being conformed to be more and more like Him. In Him we do not lose ourselves, we discover more fully who we are and why we were created. The image of God within ourselves becomes ever more evident and radiant. The more we die to self, the more we become alive in Christ.
Have you ever noticed the dichotomies of Christianity? The first here on earth will be last in heaven: The last here will be first there. In life we find death, in death we find life. In spiritual rebellion we find spiritual bondage, in surrender to Christ we find freedom in Christ. We live in a world that is upside down to the reality of heaven and spiritual truth. There is something in these dichotomies for you and me to grasp, but must we search ourselves to understand.
My example is this. I have been sick with incurable neurological disease and disability for more than 33 years—more than half my lifetime. What am I to make of it? I could have bitterly concluded that most of my life has been wasted, that there is no God or a cruel God. But I know there is a God—I have met His Son. He is not cruel, nor have I been abandoned. I took my queue to understanding my situation from the Bible: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” I have come to understand that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed in us.” I can let my situation be a tool to bitterness and defeat or a vehicle toward holiness and spiritual victory. Even disabled and sick, I am called to a Christian life, the perfection of love through a mystical, intimate union with Christ and the mystery of the Trinity. In myself I am nothing. Christ is my strength, justification and salvation. I must wholeheartedly devote myself to do the will of God and to love and serve my neighbour.
“The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.”
By surrendering my life in trust to Christ, prayer, immersing myself in Scriptures, the sacraments, a daily taking up of my cross to follow Christ, uniting my suffering with Christ’s Salvific suffering—these are some ways that lay a path to holiness. Everything is animated by the Holy Spirit. Any holiness a wretch like me merits, comes solely from Jesus Christ. He is the Word that expresses the perfect and holy Divine thought of God. He is the Divine Word that is God.
 Genesis 1.26-27 & 5.1
 Exodus 3.6.
 I have heard critics of Christianity say that the Bible doesn’t refer to the Trinity. Not true. See Matthew 28.19. Cf. 2Corinthians 13.14, 2Corinthians 3.17, 1John 5.7.
 John 1.2, 17.5 & 24. Revelation 22.13. Cf. Micah 5.2b, Colossians 1.14-17.
 1John 4.8b
 Hebrews 1.3.
 John 10.30, Colossians 1.15, 2Corinthians 4.4.
 Matthew 22.37-40.
 John 13.34-35.
 John 3.16.
 James 4.5
 Romans 8.29.
 2Corinthians 3.17-18.
 John Bunyan's book Pilgrim's Progress From This World to That Which Is to Come" was written in 1678 as Christian Allegory. The term Celestial City was a synonym for the heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven.
 2Peter 3.9.
 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) pp. 40-41.
 Matthew 5.48, cf. 2 Corinthians 13.11; Leviticus 11.44; Psalm18.30. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2012-2029) deals at length with Christian holiness.
 Matthew 19.30 & 20.16, Mark 10.31, Luke 13.29-30.
 Matthew 10.39, 16.25, Luke 9.24, 17.33, Romans 6.4.
 See Romans 8.1-13.
 Romans 8.28.
 Romans 8.18
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2015
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2017/12/toward-holiness.html.