Today’s Gospel gave me occasion to reflect once again upon two contrasting periods of my own life; my youth and young adulthood and my middle adulthood and conversion. As a boy, a teen and a young man I was lost and without a “compass” in my life. Surely now I know the constant anger I carried with me was one born of this sense of loss without hope. In that period of life, I most definitely did not “know” or have Jesus Christ in my life, and while much of the reason for that was my own anger, ignorance and stubbornness (walls the Lord tore down and continues to in my life); it was also due to the very bad example of Christians in my life at those times. I had them, and while it might at times seem “just” to name names, I know the Lord who brought me to conversion can do so with those who “in the name of Christ” gave me the sense I never wanted to be a Christian.
The other period was my slow-moving and wonderful conversion of heart. Still skeptical, resistant, hard-headed in many ways – I was open enough to let the Lord in! It was also very much the amazing example of generous and devout Christians who showed me the joy my life could be about, not living for myself but for the Lord and for others. They didn’t merely talk about it, they lived it. They admitted their imperfections but didn’t live in sin. They knew they were sinners, but well aware of God’s love for them. They made Jesus Christ and His Church attractive and I was captivated for several years before I actually “made the plunge” and asked to become a Catholic Christian myself. That was 16 years ago now, and while I struggle to be a better Christian day by day; it’s a joyful struggle. It’s joyful because I am filled with hope now. Hope that God truly does deliver on His Promise. Joyful because I too know that despite my sins and weaknesses (and I have many) I am a loved sinner.
Today’s Gospel highlights for me the importance of being a good Christian! It gave me cause to reflect (from my own life experience) on what could happen to a person when we aren’t a good witness and while bad examples contributed to keeping me away from God for many years; I am not resenting or unforgiving towards those people. Instead I pray for them. I pray that if they’re alive or if they are gone, that Jesus won them back. In my own conversion story, they gave me cause to forgive and the grace when I did so.
The other part of this story is that I don’t reflect back on that time of my life now and point a finger at those people without accepting that it is very possible there are people in my life now who did not see the best example of a Christian in me. There’s a possibility that I have been that bad example too, and while I might not even be aware of who those people are; I pray they have found Jesus sadly, without my help and I pray that if I were to come to know them I would have the courage and strength to ask forgiveness. This morning, as we consider God’s love and mercy expressed in the readings, most especially the Gospel – can we have the strength to commit ourselves today and each day to being the best Christians we can be?