Whenever we celebrate an anniversary, BCBP, family, or workplace, I think back to the time my husband Jun and I visited the Butterfly Garden in Subic. It is a magical nature garden with over 2,000 adult butterflies fluttering around as you stroll through the garden’s paths. We saw butterflies in all stages of development from worms to cocoons to newly emerged butterflies. I had the unforgettable experience of having a newly emerged butterfly crawl slowly up my arm, gently flexing its wings, until it reached my shoulder. Perched lightly on my shoulder with its wings fairy-like fanning my neck, it gathered strength and after several wonderful moments, lifted itself in the air to alight on a nearby leaf.
This is “transformation” – a dramatic changing from one form to another. For the butterfly this metamorphosis takes place physically; for the Christian, the transformation is more of a spiritual process. And it is during the anniversary celebration time that we must ask ourselves the hard questions. How has the BCBP transformed us as persons? How has the BCBP transformed its target market, the business milieu? Is our life different since we became renewed Christians? Have we changed in some revolutionary way?
Many of us can answer resoundingly, “Yes, I have changed!” Others may say, “I’m still trying to become better.”
As we wrestle with this continuing process of maturity and the ups and downs along the way, we wish that growth and transformation could be easier than it is. David Hazard (DJ#104, ’98) puts it this way. He says that after initially placing our faith in Christ, we may fail to understand the inner dynamic of God’s Spirit at work within us. Instead of recognizing the power of the gospel to continue to change us and renew our minds, we believe that since God has made the initial radical changes in our lives gratis, it’s now our job to pay back the favor. So we mistakenly commit ourselves to a holy self-improvement program.
Holy self-improvement vs. genuine transformation
A holy self-improvement program can take on many forms: memorizing whole Bible passages, participating daily in Holy Mass, reciting numerous novenas and rosaries on schedule, attending all BCBP activities, strictly observing and following each and every item in our BCBP Commitment Card, taking up various forms of meditation, denying oneself of the “good times”. All of these are worthwhile practices, but they, per se, do not transform us.
There is a universe of difference between self-improvement efforts and learning to know and experience God. The former develops into false piety or self-righteousness; the latter is what Paul calls living in the Spirit and letting the Spirit control our lives (Gal. 5:25). In his letter to the Galatians, chapters 5 and 6, Paul warns us not to fall into the trap of outward conformity to some set of “spiritual” standards or expectations of “holiness” set by others (and sometimes even set by ourselves). This often results in making us smug and self-righteous, or else overworked, tired, and dry. This is like pasting wings on a worm to create an instant butterfly! And when the pasted-on wings dry and fall off, the worm reverts to crawling in the dirt. We become spiritual casualties.
Paul exhorts us to avoid conforming to the world around us and instead pursue God Himself and experience the genuine metamorphosis of spiritual transformation. Transformation happens when we allow His work to go deep – to the very core of our being. Hazard writes, “For as the life of the body is in the blood, the life of the spirit is in the innermost attitudes and beliefs that shape our will.” We need to take on the attitudes of Christ and allow the Spirit room to work in us to transform us into what God wants us to be – understanding that the result may not necessarily be what we want Him to make us into.
What are some of the attitudes that can help us grow in an intimate, vital, personal relationships with God and keep us from becoming spiritual casualties? Every inspired writer has his/her own list of essential attitudes for becoming Christlike but for me, these can be boiled down to five: grasping God’s goodness and love, accepting that we are here “on assignment”, having a listening spirit, cultivating a healthy detachment from the world, and loving God completely and unconditionally.
Grasping God’s goodness and love
Jesus’ life and ministry is a study in living with childlike trust in the love and goodness and utter trustworthiness of the Father. No matter what happened to Jesus, He knew that God loved him and would never abandon him. He could see God’s goodness and love in the people around him, in the storm on the sea of Galilee, in the death of Lazarus, in the multitudes seeking healing, in the soldiers sent to persecute him.
How often have we sung “God is Good” while at the same time we were asking, “If God is good, why did He …”, “Why hasn’t He…”, “Why won’t He…?” In a moment of depression or frustration we might even cry out, “If You’re so good, why does it seem that I’ve been more faithful to You than You are to me?” This cry results from the mistaken attitude that since God loves me, He will give me what I want. We try to control God, to limit His goodness to our wants and desires, rather than allowing Him to do what is best for us.
Like Jesus, we need a childlike confidence in the love and goodness of God, trusting in Him no matter what. Paul emphasizes this attitude in his letter to the Romans, chapter 8, especially in verses 28 and onwards.
We are on assignment
Jesus had an assignment to do, given Him by His Father. His whole life was lived fulfilling this assignment. We need to realize that we, too, have been given an assignment by God. Our assignment is to do His will. Often we ask the question: “What is God’s will for my life?” This is NOT the right question. The right question is: “What is God’s will?” Once we know God’s will, then we can adjust our life to Him. The focus needs to be on GOD, not on my life.
During Jesus’ 33 years on earth, He perfectly completed every assignment God gave Him to do. He never failed to do the will of the Father. How did He do this? John 5:17, 19-20 summarize Jesus’ approach to doing the will of His Father. He says, “The Father has been working right up until now. Now God has Me working. I do nothing on my own initiative. I watch to see what the Father is doing. I do what I see the Father already is doing. You see, the Father loves Me. He shows Me everything that He, Himself, is doing” (paraphrased).
Right now, God is working all around us as well as in our lives. The key here is to watch to see where God is working and then join Him in His work. We don’t have to “invent” assignments to do God’s work. We just have to be aware of His Presence in our lives. We have to get to know Him better and then transform our lives, adjusting our lives to Him.
Having a listening spirit
Because God is at work in all circumstances, we need to have a listening spirit, a watchful spirit, an alertness to His work in our lives and to what our spiritual assignment might be. We are a “doing” people. We always feel we must be doing something. If we pause to catch our breath, before too long someone will say, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” Media, TV, radio, all sorts of enticing advertisements shout at us to “Do Something!” We find ourselves being judged more by what we do and how much we can do, then by who we really are.
And yet throughout scripture God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11). He asks us to enter into a love relationship with Him. Yes, there is a time when we must “do” something, but we cannot and should never skip the relationship. The relationship with God must come first (John 15:5).
Cultivating the attitude of healthy detachment
Jesus was content to carry out His entire ministry as an itinerant preacher, owning only the clothes on His back, depending on God to provide for His daily needs. But His detachment was not withdrawal from the world. Because He was not overly attached to a house, his family and friends, or his possessions for security, approval or worth, He was able to more closely connect with those who most needed His help. He was able to easily move about the land doing His Father’s work without worrying about what other people thought of Him. He looked to God for His security and for approval of what He was doing.
We need to have this attitude of healthy detachment. This doesn’t mean that we have to give up the things we have – our nice home, our closets full of clothes, our comfortable lifestyle, or our “barkada”. Healthy detachment means that our happiness should not depend solely or mostly on our possessions, our social and business accomplishments or what our friends think of us. Our happiness should depend more on what God thinks of us. It is God’s “Well, done, good and faithful servant” that should be our ultimate source of approval.
Living in love
In everything that Jesus did, He showed His great love, a love that stemmed from His own personal, intimate love relationship with God the Father. His secret was utter trust in the love of God. It is only this quality and attitude of love that can make us give ourselves completely to God as we answer His call. Only love lets us accept – as Jesus did – that we are here “on assignment.” Only unconditional love and childlike trust can turn us to God the Father for our meaning and purpose.
Only by living a life fully loving God can we experience true and lasting transformation. Only as we follow Jesus, taking the attitudes that shaped His heart, allowing God’s Spirit to work in us and with us, will this new life – His life and attitudes – become one in us.
Only then can we say with resounding conviction, “Yes, I am transformed!” with this statement being immediately followed by “Yes, and I am still being transformed!” For in truth and in fact, this change is a never-ending process, a journey toward holiness, a journey toward God with Jesus holding our hand the Spirit guiding our steps.
Making an impact in the marketplace
The mission and vision of the BCBP is to make an impact not only in our personal lives but to transform the business world into a more Christian environment. But we can only influence the marketplace to the extent that we ourselves, as members of the BCBP, are transformed. As we ourselves experience life-changing transformation through a closer, more intimate living and loving relationship with God, we naturally find ourselves wanting to share our joy with others.
We just need to look around us and be aware of where God is presently working and what He is presently doing in our businesses and professions. Then with the help of the Holy Spirit we can easily align our evangelization efforts with His work. We mustn’t be content with getting the numbers to attend our BCLPs, this may just be a pasting on of wings, a cosmetic increase in membership. For our organization to have a real lasting impact on the business milieu, we need to experience real metamorphosis starting from within.
And this we can do as we adopt the attitudes of Jesus. Deep and lasting change is not a mirage, it is our birthright as children of God. My prayer for this year’s celebration of God’s goodness in the BCBP is: Let me never be content with pasting on wings. Help me live the core attitudes of Jesus in my daily life. Lord God, may I experience a true metamorphosis and become all that You want me to be – in my personal life, in my family, in my marketplace. Thank you for your unending goodness and merciful love. Amen.
Reprinted from the KAPATIRAN, May-June 2000, issue. Author: Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila.