Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Advent. In the Gospel we see John the Baptist coming out of the wilderness proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God. He proclaims Isaiah's message that the world is about to be shaken. Things are going to change. Valleys will be laid flat, and mountains shaken to their cores. Winding roads will be made straight and the rough path made smooth. All of these speak of major changes. Of topographical divergence. That is what the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit, do to a person. Change. Conversion. The Greek word is Metanoia. It means to alter course 180 degrees.. to turn things inside out... around.. back on themselves. Baruch, in the first reading, also talks about this conversion.. this change.. this Metanoia.
Then we see this letter from the Apostle Paul to the Philippians sandwiched in the middle. Paul is the ultimate example of metanoia. Paul who was the Pharisee of the Pharisees not only ceased persecuting the Christians that were such a danger to his way of life, but he joined them in faith and practice. Here now we see him in prison awaiting word to whether or not he will be freed or executed. Yet, he is full of joy. Full of kind words, and prayer.. not for his own concern.. but for the Philippians themselves. Wow!
How well that fits in with my experience of this day. Today my wife and I took part in a class on redemptive listening. That is, learning to listen to other people in a way that truly gets our own thoughts and interests out of the way. It means trying to be Christ to that person, to respect their dignity and help them feel loved. How powerful, yet how difficult. That though is what we must learn to do if we want to be more like Christ. That's the true metanoia isn't it? To consistently and intentionally be more like Christ, and less like ourselves. That's what conversion is about. It's not a one time event, though some people have major conversion stories. It starts at one point.. but it moves towards the end of time. We have a conversion.. we have more conversions... and we will have a conversion... It's a lifelong process of daily growing in our relationship with God and with each other.
As we continue through Advent towards Christmas, that seems to me to be the goal. To examine our hearts, minds, and lives. To ask ourselves, am I growing towards Christ? Am I more like him this Advent than I was last Advent? Am I more like him today than I was yesterday? How can I be more like him tomorrow? It's up to us to change the landscape. It's up to us to go into our environments, filed with this obstacle or that one. When we go in alone they can be too much. Just like a winding path that never seems to get you any closer to your goal, or a steep mountain that simply feels like you can never climb it, so too is the Kingdom of God impossible to bring about on your own. It's when we bring the Architect, the creator of the universe, with us into our environment.. that he levels the mountain, smoothing the rough ways, and making crooked paths straight.
By changing our environment, by bringing the God we receive in the Eucharist into the world, we bring others closer to the promise that God has made to his people. "All flesh shall see the salvation of God, for God is leading us in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company."
As St. Paul said, "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." Keep allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life, drawing you deeper and deeper into conversion. God will not allow his word to return to him void, but will accomplish the task he has sent it out to complete.
His servant and yours,