One of the members shared a reflection on the role of St. Paul, not just during his own times, but today as he is still working spiritually through the Scriptures. The reflection reminded me of the real purpose of Advent as the season that prepares our minds and hearts. Not just as a historical remembrance of the coming of Christ in the Incarnation at Christmas but as a season of new expectation and longing for his return in glory to this earth to claim what belongs to God once and for all.
The meditation shared from “God’s Word Among Us” mentions that there are two kinds of conversion. “The first is metanoia, which means a fundamental change in mind and heart. St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was such a moment. Today people have some experiences through programs like the “Life in the Spirit Seminar” as well as the Cursillo weekend. Others experience this more gradually as they take up a life of prayer and Scripture allowing the Lord to impress his love on their hearts. The second kind of conversion is referred to as “ongoing conversion” or the lifelong process of sanctification, which is about becoming more like Christ every day. John the Baptist summarized this way of life when he said about Jesus and himself, “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30.)
These two points are fundamental to our walk with Christ in the church. Often people say they have a relationship with Jesus but want nothing to do with the church. That is like wanting to befriend someone from the head up but having nothing to do with the rest of the person. Engaging with Christ is becoming involved with the whole person, head and body, mind and spirit, Christ and his body the church.
Preparing as a Diocesan Church for the Catholics Come Home program this coming Lent, when we will welcome people who have been estranged from the church or have fallen out of the habit of Sunday practice, we ourselves as individual parishioners, priests and parishes must be ready and welcoming to those who will return. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually by going this Advent to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by offering our sufferings for the sake of those who will return and by being truly welcoming and non-judgmental. We should welcome them with the love of Christ and be Christ for them as they return to the arms of a loving church. As we journey to the feast of the Incarnation, let us prepare to welcome Christ not just to the crib scene but into the crèche of our hearts where God wants us to welcome others to visit the newborn king.