2022.09.30 Sunday Gospel Reflections

The Lord's Day Reflection: ‘What’s your conversion story?’

As the Church marks the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Fr Marion Nguyen, OSB, offers his thoughts on the day’s liturgical readings under the theme: “What’s your conversion story?”

By Fr Marion Nguyen, OSB*

All the readings speak of the Holy Spirit. The first reading recounts in the Acts of the Apostles how they came to understand that the reception of the Holy Spirit is distinct from baptism and Peter and John had to come down from Jerusalem to lay hands upon the newly baptised.

In the second reading, Peter exhorts us to allow the Holy Spirit to enter and sanctify our hearts in imitation of Christ who was “put to death in the flesh, was brought to life in the Spirit.”

In the Gospel, Jesus promises the disciples the gift of the Spirit, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Sprit of truth.”

In commenting on this Gospel passage, Augustine interprets the reference to the dwelling of the Holy Spirit as none other than our conscience. Most of us who are meditating on these readings have already had the hands of the present-day apostle, our bishop, laid upon us at confirmation.

How well have we permitted the Spirit to dwell in our hearts? In what way have we put to death deeds of the flesh and brought to life works of the Spirit? What allows us to listen and put into practice the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our conscience? In other words, what’s your conversion story?

Personal encounter with God

How the Holy Spirit brings a person to conversion is different for each person, but all will have the same effects: forgiveness of sins and acceptance of the holiness of God, which is participation in divine life. (Cf. CCC 2020)

We are all familiar with Paul’s conversation in which light from heaven flashed before him, threw him to the ground and blinded him and the voice of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”(Acts 9:4) This is not the only conversion story; there are others.

Saint Pachomius, the father of cenobitic monasticism, was converted by kindness.

Pachomius was conscripted into the Roman army at the age of twenty and while fighting, was captured and imprisoned. Seeing the afflictions of the captives, some citizens of that city brought food and urged them to eat. Young Pachomius was intrigued and asked his comrades, “Why are these people so good to us when they do not know us?’ They answered, ‘They are Christians, and they treat us with love for the sake of the God of heaven.’ Pachomius was moved by kindness to conversion.

Taking an unexpected turn

Brother Gregory entered the monastery right out of middle school. He desired to be a priest, but his superiors did not agree so he studied to become a teacher.

He studied while teaching for many years and obtained not only the necessary degrees, but also became an excellent teacher. Brother Gregory was talented and generous and consequently was given many responsibilities, among them are: prefect of men, full load of classes, advisor for the school newspaper and director of the theatre. He was good and effective at his work and thought that he would remain a teacher for the rest of his life.

At the end of one school year, after Brother Gregory finished inspection of the vacated dorms, he went into his cell to take a nap. His nap lasted until the next evening.

The doctor said, “You are completely exhausted, you need to take time to rest.” Brother Gregory was taken out of teaching and sent into the seminary for studies.

Once ordained, he became a pastor, formation director, sub prior, prior and eventually abbot. Brother Gregory’s exhaustion moved his life into the direction God wanted.

God leading us deeper into divine life

The Holy Spirit has been sent by Jesus into the world and blows where He wills. If we are open Him, conversion ensues.

The means of conversion are many, but the same Spirit works in each: violent intervention; kindness of a stranger; suffering and exhaustion; openness to new things; gratitude; compunction.

The variety of graces of the Holy Spirit is as numerous as the number of souls that exist.

What is your conversion story? How does the Holy Spirit continue to lead you deeper into divine life?

*Abbot of St. Martin Abbey Lacey, Washington

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13 May 2023, 15:27