Conversion: A two-step preparation process
My 25-year-old friend Penny used to tell me about her weekend social "adventures" with her friend Sara. Sara was a bit of a "wild child," Penny explained.
The two had very different backgrounds. Sara came from a broken home with little discipline or parental attention during her adolescent years. Penny's family was close-knit and, while not overbearingly devout, Christian values were at its core. Penny herself had a strong sense of personal morality and self-confidence. It was obvious that Sara admired Penny and subtly tried to emulate her.
Sara began having relational problems with her boyfriend. She told Penny that he was controlling and didn't treat her with respect. She told him she'd started going to church and wanted him to go too. He didn't buy it. Still Sara continued the relationship with him - and quit going to church herself.
(Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007)
Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Penny didn't counsel Sara to go back to church. Instead, she suggested Sara not only end the bad relationship but start showing respect for herself by continuing her college education, slowing down her drinking, and giving up other negative behaviors that contributed to a poor self-image.
But Sara wasn't willing to change or sever the attachment to her boyfriend.
Penny, meanwhile, was on a forward track and quickly tired of the shallow party scene and moved on.
Months later Penny heard from her old friend. Sara had decided she wanted to be a teacher and had begun college classes toward that goal. She also broke up with the boyfriend, was working out regularly at the Y, and had met some new and interesting friends.
"She seems so much happier - it was like talking to a different person," Penny told me. "Now she's ready for God."
Sara's experience illustrates the need for a two-step conversion such as John the Baptist offers in this week's Gospel of Advent. The first step is repentance - turning away from one's sinfulness. Then will come the Holy Spirit bringing a life imbued with Jesus Christ.
What are the sins or bad habits and attachments that currently crowd out Jesus from your life?
The way of Advent is preparation. First we cleanse ourselves of elements that keep God out of our lives. Once emptied, then we are available for the Lord to fill us with his Spirit.
This column is offered in cooperation with the North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.
This week's readings
Week of December 9 - 15, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Second Sunday of Advent
Reading I: Is 11:1-10
Reading II: Rom 15:4-9
Gospel: Mt 3:1-12
Monday, December 10, 2007
Reading I: Is 35:1-10
Gospel: Lk 5:17-26
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Reading I: Is 40:1-11
Gospel: Mt 18:12-14
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Reading I: Zec 2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Gospel: Lk 1:26-38 or Lk 1:39-47
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr
Reading I: Is 41:13-20
Gospel: Mt 11:11-15
Friday, December 14, 2007
Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church
Reading I: Is 48:17-19
Gospel: Mt 11:16-19
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Reading I: Sir 48:1-4, 9-11
Gospel: Mt 17:9a, 10-13
Pope's Prayer Intentions
December General Intention
Those Suffering from AIDS. That society may care for those stricken with AIDS, especially women and children, and that the Church may help them feel the Lord's love.
December Mission Intention
Asia. That the incarnation of the Son of God may help the peoples of Asia recognize Jesus as God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world.
A Prayer in Autumn for Country Living
GOOD and generous Lord, You have once more brought the year full circle, through planting and growing and ripening to harvest time, and autumn.
We thank You for the sun and the wind, the rain and the dew, the minerals of the earth and all the plants that grow and all the beasts and birds of farm and field. We marvel at Your wonderful ways of bringing food from the earth for the good of us all.
Dear God, help us to use Your rich gifts as You want us to. Teach us to share them with our neighbors when they are in need. Make us see, in the marvelous succession of seasons and in the growth and ripening of our crops, the merciful, generous hand of Your divine providence.
Help us to realize, too, that if we keep Your commandments and live according to the inspirations of Your grace, we shall also reap a plentiful harvest in the autumn of our lifetime: a harvest that we will be able to enjoy for ever and ever, where no rust can destroy, nor blight spoil any least part of it.
Prayer courtesy of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference