Thursday, February 26, 2009

Inner Conversion -- Outer Works

St. Paul emphatically teaches that one is saved not by observance of the Law of Moses but by faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 2:16). Still, the Gospel of Matthew has Jesus teaching the crowds that not only has he come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them (cf. Mt. 5:17), but also warns his followers that it is not enough to call him "Lord, Lord", but also do the will of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 7:21). And First John exhorts us that if we claim to love God whom we cannot see and fail to love the brother (or sister) whom we can, then we are liars! (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20).

In various places in the New Testament, both in the Gospels and in some of the Epistles, we are advised that the fulfillment of the Old Testament is to loved our neighbor as ourself (cf. Lv. 19:18b).

Conversion, or metanoia from the Greek meaning a "change of mind" (so, Mk. 1:15; Mt. 3:2 [John the Baptist] and 4:17 [Jesus]), is the universal call to think and do differently. Yesterday, for those Catholics of the Roman Rite, we heard the injunction to either "Turn from sin and believe the Gospel" or the reminder echoing the Book of Genesis, "You are dust and unto dust you shall return." (cf. Gen. 3:19c).

St. Paul reminds us we who are baptized must have a change of mind (cf. Rom. 12:2) and that, in fact, we have the mind [psyche] of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16b). And yesterday we were also reminded that "today is the acceptable time" (cf. 2 Cor. 6:2-3).

So, being a Christian -- as we all know -- is more than saying words; it is a lifetime of practice and working. We yield to God's Holy Spirit and allow the Spirit of the Living God to transform us -- our ways of thinking, our attitudes, our bad habits, our speech, our behaviors, our actions -- so that they more readily and clearly reflect the image [ikon] of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).

Our Christian vocation is ongoing converstion into Jesus Christ. For us members of the Franciscan family, friars, Sisters, nuns and laypeople alike -- our life is one of penance in joyful response to the Lord's call. Not only to follow Jesus Christ, but to live in him and him live in us, thus following the lead from our holy founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi embracing the leper, through whom he encountered the Lord Jesus Christ.

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