St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153), the French mystic and reformer of the Cistercian order, tells us that "only love can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives." From a rather different part of the Church, some 8 centuries later, Billy Graham tells us that "to be a Christian is not a pious pose. It is not a long list of restrictions. Christianity opens the windows to the real joy of living. Those who have been truly converted to Jesus Christ know the meaning of abundant living."
This Sunday's gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) is about conversion. John the Baptist knocks at our door, extending an invitation to turn towards Jesus who comes. Conversion follows. Conversion results from welcoming and being seized in love by Christ, Who illuminates our hearts and minds. Conversion always implies change. John Henry Newman (+1890), (Anglican/Roman priest known for the Oxford Movement which, amongst other things, awakened a new appreciation in the Church for the Eucharist) tells us that "to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often".
In conversion, our primary role is to acquiesce, to say "yes" to God, Whom St. Paul, in our second reading (Romans 15:4-13), so lovingly prays, "fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." In conversion, we gradually become perfect in love, as we should be. Speaking of which, St. Catherine of Siena (+1380) tells us, "if you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!" Ah, the fire of love...
Yours in Christ Who comes,
Priest in Charge
From the desk of the Rector