Ongoing conversion is one of the main themes of Advent, as it is of Lent and indeed, the entire church year. The figure of John the Baptist, so prominent in the Advent readings at Mass, has the primary goal of warning us to wake up and “prepare to meet your God.” From the brief samples of John’s preaching presented in our Gospels, we know that John was a fiery preacher who unsettled the complacent, and verbally dragged into the Jordan men and women who were moved by the spiritual demands he voiced. Although much of Jesus’ preaching and actions as presented in our Gospels often sounds more positive and pleasing to the ear than John’s preaching, there is clearly an overlap in their messages. From what we read in the Gospels, Jesus could also make powerful demands for ongoing conversion: “And you…Do you think that you will ascend into heaven? You will go down to the depths of hell,” “because you did not repent.” These words are meant for us as a warning, not as a prediction. We must change.
Each of us should ask: What do I need to change in my life to “enter the Kingdom of God,” to have a more genuine and complete union with God? What patterns in my life resist the workings of divine grace in my heart and mind? How do I limit the free working of God’s Spirit in me? Do I insist on “doing it my way”? Do I receive warnings from family, friends, or enemies with attentiveness? How do I close the door of my heart precisely to those voices that might challenge me to change into a man or woman more like Christ? Who is my God?