Circus Ministry Memorial Mass at St. Martha Church in Sarasota, FL
Memorial of St. John Neumann
Friday, January 5, 2024
1 John 3:11-21; Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5; John 1:43-51
In yesterday’s passage from John’s Gospel, Andrew met Jesus and immediately went to find his brother Peter to tell him that he had found the Messiah. As a result, Peter went to meet Jesus and we all know what happened from there. Andrew and Peter both experienced an immediate, life changing conversion.
Today’s Gospel reading is another story of conversion, the conversions of Philip and Nathanael. After Jesus calls Philip to be a disciple, Philip immediately goes to find his brother, Nathanael, (who came to be known as the Apostle Bartholomew) to tell him the good news.
As a result of his encounter with Jesus, Nathanael also converts, saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Both Peter and Nathaniel experienced conversion as a result of an introduction to Jesus by their brothers.
From these two Gospel accounts, we learn that CONVERSION IS CONTAGIOUS. Once God calls someone to follow Him and that soul responds, that person is almost always compelled to share their conversion with others. And when they share the conversion of their heart with another, when they share what God has done for them or revealed to them, the other will often become intrigued themselves, possibly even converting.
Conversion is indeed contagious! When we come to know God, fall in love with Him and choose to follow Him, we naturally want to share with others the joy and conviction of this conversion. We want others to experience the spiritual peace and joy we have found when we were introduced to Jesus. When Jesus calls us and we answer that call, we are compelled to share him with others. It is very often through us that Jesus speaks to others who don’t yet know him. He uses us to reach them!
So this begs the question: Has our love of God affected others in our lives? Do we share with others our story of conversion, how our encounter with the Lord has changed our lives? Do we experience a true joy in knowing Christ and does that joy radiate from us so that others want to know why we are so joyful, even in the midst of our suffering, our hardships and our disappointments? If the answer is “Yes,” then this is something to be grateful for. But if the answer is “No,” then perhaps it’s worth pondering why not. Why aren’t we sharing our love of Christ with others?
Have we allowed ourselves to experience a life-changing conversion to Christ, or do we simply follow Church teachings out of habit or obligation? Has Jesus somehow changed the direction of our lives by opening our eyes to see what truly matters in life?
I suspect that most of us here have had such a conversion, or we wouldn’t be here today. We’re not here because we have to be…we are here because we have had an encounter with Christ that’s changed our life in some significant way. We’ve come to understand that we need the spiritual food we receive here to continue to grow in faith. To listen to and respond to God’s promptings as HE wishes.
Each of us knows others – family members and friends – who have not yet come to experience this life-changing conversion that results from a personal encounter with Our Lord. Our job as baptized Christians is to introduce them to Jesus, to allow them to encounter him through our witness, through our stories, through our charity and our mercy for all. We should never be afraid to share our love of God with anyone, at any time.
When we share our stories and our love of Christ with others, very often that person will recognize, perhaps for the first time, their need to turn from serious sin, to pray, to read the Scriptures, and to share their conversion experience with others. Or, perhaps our witness may rekindle the flame of the Holy Spirit in their heart and they will return to the faith they may have abandoned some years ago.
The other thing about conversion is that it’s not only a one-time event. It’s ongoing in the life of the Christian. Saint John of the Cross explains that as a person advances in the life of holiness, there will come times in our life when we must go through a whole new conversion.
Our journey of following Christ should draw us into even more profound changes in our life. We should never be content with where we are today in our spiritual lives. We must seek the ongoing process of change that is required by a commitment to follow Christ. No matter how advanced we are in the spiritual life, we can always go deeper.
Pray today that God will use you as He wills. Be open to Him, ask Him how he wants you to serve him and never be afraid to share your love of him with others, telling them how he has changed your life. It just may be that God is waiting for that very moment of your witness to bring someone home to the Church.