Listen and convert
When I was about to go to study in the year 2003, many people asked me why I was going to study at my age. My answer to them was and still is “I have to prepare myself for the days when I no longer have the energy to run a parish.”
Today as I am about to enter the ranks of retirees—or should I say responsible persons—I feel the need ever more urgently to be able to do something useful. Then as now, I would not like to end my days sitting before a TV set sipping coffee or scotch. Growing old has made me very aware of the need to prepare myself for a useful retirement and a happy eternity.
Preparing for a useful retirement means not only equipping oneself to be creatively useful. It also signals a need for a change in lifestyle. The sedentary life to which one grows accustomed now has to change.
Walking and bicycle riding should now be part of the daily schedule. There has to be a conversion in my life, if I am to stay alive and healthy. If not, the things that I have studied and the hobbies that I have built will all be in vain.
As I read the Gospel for this weekend my own situation came to mind because it reminded me that creative waiting almost always needs a conversion. A prophet has to preach to us a baptism of repentance so that we may be converted, and we must have the grace to listen.
The doctor who looks after me had to remind me recently, perhaps frighten me into acknowledging that my sedentary lifestyle would not allow me to wait creatively. My acknowledging of this fact about my own life will be the catalyst for lifestyle change. Yes it is still early but if I want it badly enough, it will happen. All of us at some time or other have had the same experience. Positive change has come to us because we listened and we heard.
As we thank God for the prophets in our lives, who have called us to change, we must remember that these calls to change, to conversion are in fact reminders of and symbols of a call to conversion which deals not only with human realities but more importantly with spiritual realities.
Advent as we know celebrates waiting in all its dimensions, but more especially the creative waiting for God in our lives. Creative waiting for God entails the building of the Kingdom. The Gospel today reminds that building the Kingdom always entails conversion, a new lifestyle so to speak.
As we were reminded two weeks ago, the Kingdom is God’s reign of justice, peace and love and it is to this that we must be converted, so that our waiting for God in our lives be creative.
There are many people and circumstances around us which play the role of John the Baptist in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. We hear his voice in the homeless whose plight cries out to us, in those living with HIV/AIDS, in the violence of young men who do not share an adequate piece of the national pie etc.
May we listen carefully so that we may hear, and like the people around the River Jordan acknowledge our sins and be converted.
All powerful and ever-loving God, the memorial of the birth of your Son approaches once again and reminds us your Son will come again. As we await this second coming help us to understand that creative waiting entails a conversion, a change in lifestyle which will facilitate the Coming of your Kingdom. Help us to hear the voice of John the Baptist, calling us to conversion and give us the Grace to accept that call. We ask this through the intercession of Mary our Mother, the model of creative waiting, and through your Son Jesus.
The Gospel reflections for December are by Archbishop Joseph Harris