Bishop Sheen once said that in reality there are two images of what we are: the one given to us by God at the beginning and the one we are living at this moment. And we know we are growing, making spiritual progress, and we are being undergoing conversion as these two images are getting closer to becoming one… when we are starting to live more in accordance to the original image that God had for us! Of course we need God´s help to achieve this. He alone can refine and purify the image we are living and get us closer to the one He planned for us from the beginning.
This thought reminds me of a story someone sent me a short time after I arrived at Holy Apostles. It is a true story about a group of Jewish women who used to meet to study the Bible and while they studied the book of Malachi they found the verse that states, "He will sit like the refiner and purifier of silver" (Malachi 3). The women asked how this statement applied to the character and nature of God, and one of the women offered to get more information about the process of silver refining and bring it back to the group at the next Bible study group.
She called a silversmith and made an appointment to see him work. While she was observing, he placed a piece of silver over the fire and let it there to be heated. He explained that in refining silver, one needs to place the silver in the center of the fire where the flames are the hottest in order to burn out all the impurities. The woman thought about God supporting us in a place so hot and she remembered the verse of the Bible that states: "He sits like a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire all the time while the silver was being perfected. The man answered that yes, that not only he had to sit there holding the silver, but also he had to keep his eyes on the silver all the time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even for one moment too long, it would be destroyed… The woman remained silent for a moment. Then, she asked the silversmith, "But, how do you know when the silver is completely purified?"
He smiled and answered: "Oh that is easy. It is when I see my image in it!"
My dear friends, this is the challenge of the spiritual life! To allow the Lord to refine and purify the image we are living so that it becomes the beautiful image God had of us from the beginning. To allow Him to live His image in us! And the good thing is that if you feel the fire´s heat it is because you are in God´s hands. He has his eyes placed upon you, and He continues to look and support you until He sees His image in you! ¡Alleluia! That this image be our hope as we get ready to start a new church year this Advent!
Father Tony Mugavero is pastor of Holy Apostles Parish in Rochester.