Follow the Path to Conversion | December 5, 2021
2nd Sunday of Advent – Year C
Christianity is supremely a religion of conversion. Everything we say and everything we believe is built upon one fundamental and revolutionary premise: We don’t have to stay the way we are. Our life can be radically changed by God. Conversion is a miracle that happens when the life of God intersects with human personality. Once God enters the picture, our life will never be the same again. Until then, we may be religious, and we may be a very good person and we may obey all the rules of the church, but we have not been converted. Conversion is entirely a conviction that long-held prejudices can be overcome, lifetime habits can be broken, and deeply ingrained patterns of sin can be erased over time. Conversion is the certainty that what we were does not determine what we are, and what we are does not determine what we will be. We can be changed, we can be different, our life can move in an entirely new direction. God does not call the qualified, but he qualifies the called. Conversion is a truth and if we take that truth away from Christianity, it ceases to be a supernatural religion. If the possibility of real change is gone, then we have nothing to offer but a set of rules.
On this Second Sunday of Advent as we light the second candle which is the symbol of Peace, we are invited to decide which route we want to take? We can prepare ourselves to take the path to conversion or we can stay as we are. Each day is an open invitation for us to choose and decide. An unknown author wrote these beautiful words to help us to choose and let peace within ourselves prevail.
“I have a choice about today
I woke up early today, excited over all I get to do before the clock strikes midnight. I have responsibilities to fulfill today, and I am important. My job is to choose what kind of day I am going to have:
Today I can complain because the weather is rainy, or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.
Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money, or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste.
Today I can grumble about my health, or I can rejoice that I am alive.
Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.
Today I can cry because roses have thorns, or I can celebrate those thorns have roses.
Today I can mourn my lack of friends, or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.
Today I can whine because I have to go to work, or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.
Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new tidbits of knowledge.
Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework, or I can appreciate that I have a place to call home.
Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.
What today will be like is up to me. I get to choose what kind of day I will have!
Have a GREAT DAY … unless you have other plans and please remember, a ‘Smile’ will make the days go better”.
Prophet Ezekiel was given the task to help people to convert from their sinful ways and come back to the Lord; “But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die”. St. James also helps us to play the real role of a disciples by bringing people back to the Lord “My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”.
The Holy Bible is full of conversion stories but especially the New Testament. Most of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen, but their lives were changed the day they met with Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read about the conversion story of Saul who later was called Paul. His conversion changed the face of Christianity, and he became the Apostle of the Gentiles. I strongly believe that the season of Advent not only prepare us to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, but it also opens for us the ways to work on our conversion. Conversion does bring inner peace and inner peace leads us to make Jesus the center of our lives.
The Prophet Baruch in the First Reading encouraging everyone to experience the beauty of the glory from God “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, of Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God”. He is prophesying during the time when people are suffering and missing Jerusalem. They are sad because the beauty of Jerusalem is being stolen away from them and people are in the state of mourning. He is encouraging people to choose the path of conversion and believe that God the Almighty Father is going to be with them “For God will give you evermore the name, ‘Righteous, Peace, Godly Glory’”. If we choose the path of conversion and trust in the Lord, then there will be humility and peace. He does remind that once the salvation will come everything is going to be safe for Israel “For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that comes from him”. The preparation for the conversion of our hearts is very important because we must have pure and blameless hearts to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord.
An old pencil maker took his newest pencil aside, just before he was about to pack them into a box. Imagining the little fellow as a person he recalled a few things about the pencil.
“There are five things you need to know,” he said to his pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Always remember these five things – never forget them – and you will become the best pencil you can be!
“The first thing is to remember that you will be able to do many great things, but only if you put yourself in someone else’s hands.
“From time to time you will experience a painful sharpening but remember that this will make you a better pencil.
“Also, keep in mind that you will be able to correct any mistakes you might make along the way.
“And the most important part of you is what’s on the inside.
“And remember this, as well, upon every surface that you are used, you must leave your mark. No matter what else happens, you must continue to write.”
It seemed the pencil listened to him and promised he would remember these five things so that he could live his life with heart and purpose.
Isn’t true with our conversion of heart, though painful, we will enjoy peace later?
In the Second Reading St. Paul is thanking Philippians for their good deeds and helping other people to prepare for the day of the Lord “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of the Jesus”. I think this 2nd Sunday of Advent not only invites us to conversion but encourages us to help other people to convert their lives and come to follow Jesus. What an amazing appreciation from St. Paul for people to experience Jesus’s love. St. Bernard reflecting on the coming of Jesus says “We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect who see the Lord within their selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty”.
He continues to say “Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation. In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. There is another passage of Scripture which reads: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? Obviously in the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you”.
Further he adds “Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength. If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new. This coming will fulfill what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all once he takes possession of all”.
The choice to choose the path of conversion, helps us not only to see the needs of other people but also it helps us to see our relationship with him who died on the Cross. The following story I would say will help us to see our role as Christian to walk slowly and continuously with the Lord.
“A shop owner placed a sign above his door that said: ‘Puppies for Sale.’ Signs like this always have a way of attracting young children, and to no surprise, a boy saw the sign and approached the owner; ‘How much are you going to sell the puppies for?’ he asked. The store owner replied, ‘Anywhere from $30 to $50.’ The little boy pulled out some change from his pocket. ‘I have $2.37,’ he said. ‘Can I please look at them?’ The shop owner smiled and whistled. Out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his shop followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur.
One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, ‘What’s wrong with that little dog?’ The shop owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. ‘That is the puppy that I want to buy.’ The shop owner said, ‘No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.’ The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, ‘I don’t want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.’ The shop owner countered, ‘You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.’
To his surprise, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the shop owner and softly replied, ‘Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!’”
The Gospel of this Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy places us in the school of John the Baptist, who preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. Perhaps we ask ourselves, “Why do we have to convert? Conversion is about an atheist who becomes a believer or a sinner who becomes just. But we don’t need it. We are already Christians. So, we are okay”. But this isn’t true. In thinking like this, we don’t realize that it is precisely because of this presumption that we are Christians, that everyone is good, that we’re okay that we must convert: from the supposition that, all things considered, things are fine as they are, and we don’t need any kind of conversion.
But let us ask ourselves: is it true that in the various situations and circumstances of life, we have within us the same feelings that Jesus has? Is it true that we feel as Christ feels? For example, when we suffer some wrongdoing or some insult, do we manage to react without animosity and to forgive from the heart those who apologize to us? How difficult it is to forgive! How difficult! “We’re going to pay for this” that phrase comes from inside! When we are called to share joys or sorrows, do we know how to sincerely weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? When we should express our faith, do we know how to do it with courage and simplicity, without being ashamed of the Gospel? Thus, we can ask ourselves so many questions. We’re not all right. We must always convert and have the sentiments that Jesus had. Why then conversion is important for us though we are already baptized? We almost all drive our cars, and we follow the traffic rules but why do we really need them? Don’t we know speed limits, school zones, stop, yield, merge, do not enter, no parking and construction zone signs? We all know but these signs are everyday reminder to be take care of our driving habits. So same is with our preparation for conversion. Everyday we need to remind ourselves and grow strong in relationship with the Lord.
Holy Father Pope Francis says “The voice of the Baptist still cries in the deserts of humanity today, what are today’s deserts? — closed minds and hardened hearts. And “His voice” causes us to ask ourselves if we are following the right path, living a life according to the Gospel. Today, as then, he admonishes us with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord!”. It is a pressing invitation to open one’s heart and receive the salvation that God offers ceaselessly, almost obstinately, because he wants us all to be free from the slavery of sin. But the text of the prophet amplifies this voice, portending that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. And salvation is offered to every man, and every people, without exclusion, to each one of us. None of us can say, “I’m a saint; I’m perfect; I’m already saved”. No. We must always accept this offer of salvation. This is the reason for the season of Advent: to go farther on this journey of salvation, this path that Jesus taught us. God wants all of mankind to be saved through Jesus, the one mediator (1 Tim 2:4-6)”.
Therefore, each one of us is called to make Jesus known to those who do not yet know him. But this is not to proselytize. No, it is to open a door. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16), St Paul declared. If Our Lord Jesus has changed our lives, and he changes it every time we go to him, how can we not feel the passion to make him known to those we encounter at work, at school, in our apartment building, in the hospital, in meeting places? If we look around us, we find people who would be willing to begin — or begin again — a journey of faith were they to encounter Christians in love with Jesus. I leave this question: “Am I truly in love with Jesus? Am I convinced that Jesus offers me and gives me salvation?”
There was a very wealthy man who was bothered by severe eye pain. He consulted many physicians and was being treated by several. He did not stop consulting a galaxy of medical experts; he consumed heavy loads of drugs and underwent hundreds of injections. But the ache persisted with more vigour than before.
At last, a monk who was supposed to be an expert in treating such patients was called for by the suffering man. The monk understood his problem and said that for some time he should concentrate only on green colours and not to let his eyes fall on any other colours. It was a strange prescription, but he was desperate and decided to try it. The millionaire got together a group of painters and purchased barrels of green paint and directed that every object his eye was likely to fall to be painted green just as the monk had directed. When the monk came to visit him after few days, the millionaire’s servants ran with buckets of green paint and poured it on him since he was in red dress, lest their master see any other colour and his eye ache would come back.
Hearing this, the monk laughed and said “If only you had purchased a pair of green spectacles, worth just a few dollars, you could have saved these walls and trees and pots and all other articles and also could have saved a large share of his fortune. You cannot paint the world green.”
Let us change our vision and the world will appear accordingly. It is foolish to shape the world, let us shape ourselves first.
Other Sermons In This Series
December 23, 2022
March 31, 2023
December 30, 2022