What we think we know is often less than the truth and can lead us to a wrong conclusion. In the Gospel of Luke (4:21-30), Jesus has just read from the Scriptures in the synagogue in Nazareth where he grew up. After reading he says,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Messiah that the Jewish people had been praying for, for centuries is right now in their midst. “They all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But then they said, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
In other words, they thought they knew who Jesus was and were confused that he should speak with such authority. So, Jesus tells them that their attitude is just like that of their forefathers who refused to accept the prophets who came to them. Jesus says it is for this reason that miracles were performed for foreigners instead of the Chosen People. Upon hearing this, the people became enraged at Jesus and intended to kill him, but he walked through their midst and went away. He could perform no miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because they had so little faith.
Is Conversion Necessary?
Recently the Church celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. Without the conversion, there would have been no St. Paul. Paul, who was previously Saul, was an educated Jewish religious leader and he thought he knew the will of God when he was persecuting Christians and trying to destroy the Church; but he was wrong. It wasn’t until he had an encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus that he was able to see clearly what God’s plan was for him and he spent the rest of his life totally surrendering to the will of God so that he could say,
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).
So, what does the conversion of Paul have to do with the Gospel passage of Luke 4:21-30? If we look closely, we will see that all the followers of Christ went through a conversion. Conversion is necessary for us to recognize God’s plan for us. Speaking of those who had not experienced conversion Jesus said,
“…they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven” (Mark 4:12).
In other words, an unconverted heart diminishes our vision, it diminishes our hearing and it diminishes our understanding in regards to the things of God.
Accepting Change in Our Lives
We have all been baptized and we are children of God. In baptism, we received the gifts of faith, hope, and charity, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In due time we received the sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation which are sources of the graces we need to be faithful Christians. However, there is no substitute for our personal conversion. At some point in our life, we must all say, Lord, I surrender to you. I want you to be the Lord of my life. Help me to be your faithful witness.
Throughout our lives, God gives us opportunities or encounters that are an invitation to accept change in our lives that will provide spiritual growth. For me, one that stands out is when someone asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I had heard that phrase many times before, but at that moment I was given the grace to truly ponder the question and I realized that my faith had little influence on the decisions I had been making. Those few words caused me to make a deliberate choice to grow in my faith. I began to be open to spiritual things that I had not considered before, such as Bible study, prayer group, and retreat experiences. One thing led to another that has helped me become more aware of the presence of God and the help of his grace. God is patient for our salvation, but the sooner we make a deliberate decision to grow in our faith, the more likely it is that our faith will influence the decisions we make. We will have eyes that are able to perceive and ears that are able to listen and understand the guidance that comes from God, and we will be willing to make changes in our lives that will help us to grow spiritually.
What is the Desire in Your Heart?
On this subject of conversion, we have a quote from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in a document called Go Make Disciples:
“Conversion is the change of our lives that comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit. All who accept the Gospel undergo change as we continually put on the mind of Christ by rejecting sin and becoming more faithful disciples in His Church. Unless we undergo conversion, we have not truly accepted the Gospel.”
The good news is, conversion is primarily the work of God, all He needs is a docile heart. In baptism, we received the Holy Spirit who is the Agent of conversion and if we truly want to draw close to God, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us by way of our fervent prayer, by receiving the sacraments, and by reading the lives of the saints who make this journey with us.
What we think we know is often less than the truth, that’s why we must continually be formed in the truth. Jesus founded the Church, to teach us and guide us in the truth. What we do know without a doubt is that we must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength and we must love our neighbor as ourselves. If there is anything in our lives more important than God, we have not yet experienced conversion and we fail to understand the depths of the love and mercy of Almighty God. We can only reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity by living in a faithful relationship with God. It is not complicated. Our Lord has had faithful followers in every age from one extreme to the other and everyone in between. We all have the capacity to be faithful disciples. It begins with a desire in our hearts and continues with the help of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, come!
Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.