One of the things I enjoy about living in New England is the changing of the seasons. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, I still love these changing seasons despite the challenges they can bring with likes of finger numbing cold, oozing spring mud, biting summer insects, and falling leaves that suddenly reappear after I thought I had picked the last one up. Despite these annoyances, the changing of the seasons often reminds me of the phases of life and how each of those phases gives us a chance to see and experience life differently.
Our first reading this weekend, from the Acts of the Apostles, looks at the process of spiritual change, as it focuses on the conversion of Cornelius. Just as we see in this reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Baptism is the principal place of conversion as we actively “reject what is evil and receive the gift of new life.” This call to conversion is not just a call to a single person but “a call to the whole Church… to penance and renewal.” As followers of Jesus, we are called as a both individuals and community to look carefully at our lives, ask ourselves are we living out our baptismal promises and continue to actively ask God for the strength to live this call to renewal (CCC 1427-1433). As our Psalm response reminds us, this “saving power” has been revealed to the nations and is available to all people.
This call to all people is precisely what Jesus means when He says we are to love others as he has loved us. The word love in the instance is not the unconditional love that God lavishes on us, but filial love. This filial, or brotherly love, is a reminder that because of our common origin we are all children of God and thus a single human family. That as individuals and as a community of believers, we are called to look beyond the human weaknesses and resistance to the unconditional love of God — to see the inherent human dignity that resides in each person. We are called do this by being a person and community that is humble, approachable, and genuine. Being true to what God wills, allows those gifts of the Holy Spirit to work through us, which leads to healing and transformation beyond anything we could ever achieve through human efforts alone.
This process of conversion — like the changing of the seasons and their challenges — offers periods of renewal, growth, harvest, and rest. Ultimately, these periods have the power to heal, restore, and transform all of the human family.