Easter calls for real, personal conversion

Complete the Circle
By George Evans
The only problem with Easter for the Christian is getting over the exuberance and returning to ordinary daily life. There are only so many times you can say “Alleluia, HE IS RISEN, Alleluia” before it loses its impact. Fortunately the Holy Spirit is coming and Pentecost will re-energize us once again. The liturgical year marches on with its compelling peaks and valleys, its consolations and its challenges. It’s our job to roll with it, to drink deeply of its nuances and to repeatedly meet its central figure over and over ever more deeply.
As our country, and the Western world in general, continues its precipitous slide (perhaps rush) into deeper materialism, unbridled capitalism and rampant greed to the exclusion of the common good we question where to turn for relief and fulfillment.
Where do we turn in the face of poverty, disease, violence, loneliness. What do we do about wars and threatened wars, reductions in all the safety nets for the poor from social security to food stamps, expanding human trafficking and fear of death. Where do we turn in the face of one tragedy after another, deaths and suffering everywhere even among the young, slights based on egotism and selfishness from all sorts of people close and far.
We know because we are Christians and mainly Catholics reading this, that Jesus has “saved” us by his death and resurrection. But we don’t see that this makes a real difference in the way people think or act. It may  be that we don’t accept what Jesus has done and thereby we don’t allow it to flourish so that it makes a difference  in the way we act, the things and causes we support, the love and mercy we exhibit and the very way we live our lives.
What do our leaders tell us? Pope Francis is a great place to start. Over and over since becoming pope, he has urged us to remake this world of which we so often complain. Very simply he tells us the only way to start is by renewal of our personal encounter with Christ. If we have never had this existential experience, appeal to the Holy Spirit to lead us. He will not fail. The Joy of the Gospel tells us very early in paragraph 3 that “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that He is already there with open arms.” What does that mean for us?
When Jesus embraces us we cannot remain the same. We are created by God and the embrace by his Son brings us into the orbit of his love and mercy. This cannot fail to transform us. This is the heart of conversion. This is what Jesus did for us by his death and resurrection. This is what being saved really means. We are not the same. We live differently. We step into his shoes. As Pope Francis tells us, “True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.” (Par. 88). In fact, Jesus calls to us from the world, where He is present “in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas”. (Par.91)
I believe the difference in meeting Christ and simply believing in an abstract God or Trinity is what is life changing. We step into his shoes and become followers and not just disciples who profess belief with their minds but not with their hearts and souls. We treat people like he did.
We respect their dignity and care for their needs. We accept people as they are and work forward from there. We go out to the poor and marginalized. We visit the sick and feed the hungry. We work hard to make politics better to serve the common good not special interests to the detriment of others. We instill in our spouses, children and friends what it has meant to encounter Jesus so that we may share it with them.
The world in which we live gradually becomes better if we do these things. If we are forgiving, reconciling and gentle, we create joy and goodness as Jesus did. If we are self-giving rather than self-righteous, we change relationships for the better and our world is a slightly better place. If we do it together, think of what can happen. We wouldn’t lament the loss of our children or grandchildren. They would need to look no further than what we gave them. We wouldn’t worry about Americans defecting to ISIS. We wouldn’t have wars or threats of war in eight to 10 places at the same time.
It’s exciting to think of what a personal encounter with Christ can lead to. If only we could all try it, Pope Francis’ vision could come true. It’s worth a try. Pentecost is coming. What a great time to ask the Holy Spirit to help us encounter Christ.
(George Evans is a pastoral minister at Jackson St. Richard Parish.)