Reading (1 John 3:7-10) Gospel (St. John 1:35-42)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Saint John the Baptist watching Jesus walk by and pointing Him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God. As such, the disciples immediately leave their teacher to follow Jesus. Now this is something that is of great importance for us, first of all, to be able to recognize that once these two men understood (at least to the degree that they were able) Who Jesus was, they immediately were willing to leave behind everything else and follow Him. Not only that, but once they had found Our Lord, they went to tell others. We are told that the first thing Andrew did was to go find his brother Simon. Bringing Simon to Jesus, Jesus changes his name and says, You will be called Kephas (Peter). Immediately, there is a change in the lives of these men because of their initial meeting with the Lord. From there, of course, we know they had to continue to work on growing in virtue, but nonetheless, we can see the immediate change that takes place.
The same thing needs to be in us: When we recognize Who Jesus is, we have to make a change. If we think back, if we had fallen away at some point or perhaps we simply did not know the Lord, I think we would all have our own little story about what happened and how we came to the Lord or how we changed our lives. But then we need to keep working at it. That initial conversion is not enough; we have to continue to grow.
For instance, we think about James and John. We hear about Saint John, the beloved disciple, who is with Andrew. Saint John is extraordinarily holy, to the point where in the first reading he is telling us that the way you can tell who is of the devil and who is of God is by the way they act. And so we know, obviously, that Saint John was not running around doing all kinds of horrible things. He was the closest disciple to the Lord; yet he, along with his brother, are the ones who wanted Jesus to call down fire on a town that would not accept Him. We have Peter coming to the Lord and having his name changed, which signifies an entire change in the way he is going to live; yet he denies Jesus three times. So we see that just because there is that initial conversion to the Lord, it is not complete and it needs to continually be worked at.
Each and every one of us needs, first of all, to be so grateful to God for that conversion He has worked in our lives, and that we cooperated with His grace to turn around. But we cannot stop there. What happens all too often is that we are willing to settle for mediocrity. If we are willing to settle for mediocrity then we are going to fall into the same trap that some of the apostles did. After being with Jesus every day for a couple of years, they still were doing things that were stupid. So we see that it is not going to be quick and it is not going to be easy. But it is necessary. We have to keep working on growth in holiness, growth in virtue.
Perhaps you have gotten to the point where there are not any mortal sins in your life anymore. Praise God! But do not stop. Keep working at it until the venial sins are gone. Maybe you have gotten rid of the venial sins. Praise God even more! But do not stop because now you need to keep working on it until you get rid of the voluntary imperfections. And if you have gotten that far, praise God even more! But keep going because now you need to get rid of the involuntary imperfections. When they are all gone, it is then that you have perfect union with Christ. That is what He wants for us in this life so that we will have it completely and fully in the next.
We cannot settle for mediocrity. We cannot say, “Well, it’s enough that I’ve turned to the Lord and I’m not committing mortal sin anymore.” We cannot even say, “It’s enough that I’m going to daily Mass.” These are great things and we need to be praising God for them, but if we really, truly love God, we need to keep loving Him more and we need to continue to grow in holiness everyday. That is the way we are going to express our love for Him most perfectly, and the only way that can happen is in prayer. So that is the decision we have to make. If we are going to have this change in our lives because of our meeting with Christ, then that change needs to continue to happen until the union with Him and the love for Him is perfect.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.