For three Doctrinal Homily Outlines for the Baptism of the Lord (January 8) and one for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 14), please click here and then scroll down.
A Catholic philosopher and religious writer that 20th Century popes considered perhaps the greatest of their time was Dietrich von Hildebrand. One of his classic texts is Transformation in Christ. If we were to reduce why God became man to only two reasons, to save and sanctify us, von Hildebrand’s work is about sanctification, that is, making us “to become new men in Christ.”
Von Hildebrand not only explores what we are to become but also how to cooperate with grace to become such new men and women in Christ.
For example, one characteristic of a transformed man is simplicity, that is, to have an inward unity of life. God is simple. The human soul is also simple. Yet the old man in need of transformation is anything but. There are many ways a person can be disunified or “complex,” and various ways in which our attention can be unified around something good but imperfect. The true center should be God’s will. While everything that is is good, and everything, in itself, contains a partial truth, we find the true measure of each thing in God alone. Thus, we reject sin and order each good under God’s will. To explain, if I order my marriage, work, friendships, and civic engagements according to what God wants, I will be a much better husband and father, worker or boss, friend, and citizen.
In addition, von Hildebrand suggests three ways we begin to “place everything in a direct relationship to Christ, so as to be guided back towards the Alpha and Omega by even the specific meaning of every single thing to which we devote our attention.”
A first way to have unity of life is to offer to God as a sacrifice “all our works, our joys and sufferings, whatever goods we are blessed with and whatever evils we have to endure.”
A second practice for simplicity is to view all the real goods in creation as gifts of God for which we may feel gratitude.
And third, we can grow in seeing everything in relationship to God by considering how every good contains some “vestige” of God’s being. Every being reflects God its maker in some way and human beings especially are made in God’s image and likeness.
True simplicity is but one dimension of our transformation in Christ that von Hildebrand discusses, but this one quality of soul itself can take a lifetime to develop. We don’t suddenly become simple, but over time, we can become simpler and simpler, going in the direction of God’s utter simplicity.