Weekend Reflection – for you. Offered by Aidan Troy, C.P.
For this and next weekend, the figure of John the Baptist plays a central role in the liturgy of Advent. Yet, it is part of the mission of John to not shine. He is a voice, not the Word; he points to the Light but is not himself the one who shines. He has a far from easy mission.
He has the unpleasant task of asking us to change our way of life. To change in any way is not easy. When shoes of mine are beyond repair, I am slow to throw them out. They are comfortable. They may not look great, but they feel good. To put on new shoes, reveals pinches and pains here and there until I have got used to them. They too will wear out!
To change my soul is more challenging than to change my shoes. My soul is the Divine eternal element within me. It is the centre of me in which the Spirit of God lives and breathes. Within me lies contradictions. Beside the gifts of grace given by God, there are the weaknesses alongside these that Satan is delighted to exploit. There is often a battle within me – St Paul knew this well – where I end up doing the wrong thing instead of the good that I know God wants.
But, to change is not easy because it is not just a matter of deciding that ‘enough is enough’ and changing my life once and for all. If it were that simple, I would already be a saint! As you know, I am not. I am, at best, a sinner struggling to be a saint. Change from sinner to saint is one of life’s huge challenges. Like an athlete, to recall St Paul once again, in order to change at the core of my life, I must go into training on a daily basis. A basis will be prayer – mine and yours.
Today, John the Baptist has a double message for you and me in this training to become saints. Firstly, to die to my selfishness can be a living martyrdom. If each day, I tackle what is most urgent there will be a resurrection to a new and fuller life. Suppose, I find it hard to forgive you, forgive myself of something I can’t get over, only God can loosen the hold that resentment, hardness of heart, long memory of past hurts has over me.
The second part of John’s message is to be converted. Often, I must admit that I am afraid. In my better moments, I know that God will help me change from sin to grace, from coldness to warmth. At the last moment, it is like plunging into the freezing sea for a swim. The thought of the cold water holds me back. Once I take the plunge, I find that it is wonderfully refreshing and energising.
Nobody ever followed the message of John the Baptist to die to my worst self and to convert to the all-holy God and lived to regret it. In Confession I carry in a load of my worst self in the sins that are mine. I am not proud of them. In truth, I am ashamed – no matter what these sins are about.
In the moment of telling Jesus what I have done – of course, He already knows – there is the lifting of a burden from the core of my being that is truly amazing. God smiles at my anxiety and reminds me that if like His Son, Jesus, I die a little every day, then I will be converted to Him. Then my life changes more than I could have imagined.
Advent still has two more Sundays to run, so there is time to act – do it now!