By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel passage of the Second Sunday of Advent (Mk 1:1-18) saying that it reveals an itinerary of faith that is similar to the one that Advent proposes to us: “that we prepare ourselves to receive the Lord at Christmas.”
Speaking during the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that passage introduces the figure and work of John the Baptist and tells of how “conversion” puts us on a path of repentance and the quest for God and his Kingdom.
What does ‘conversion’ mean?
First he reflected on the meaning of the word “conversion”. “In the Bible it means, first and foremost, to change direction and orientation; and thus also to change our way of thinking,” he said, explaining that “In the moral and spiritual life, to convert means to turn oneself from evil to good, from sin to love of God.”
The Pope said it is what the Baptist was teaching, when he “preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” in the desert of Judea.
Receiving baptism, he explained, “was an outward and visible sign of the conversion of those who listened to his preaching and decided to do penance.”
He also noted that the baptism occurred with immersion in water, “but it proved worthless if there was no willingness to repent and change one's life.”
Conversion, Pope Francis said, involves suffering for the sins committed: “the desire to free yourself from them, the intention to exclude them from your life forever.”
And to exclude sin, he continued, it is also necessary to reject everything that is linked to it: “the worldly mentality, excessive esteem for comforts, for pleasure, for well-being, for wealth.”
Detachment from sin and worldliness
Once again, he said, the example of this comes to us from today's Gospel in the figure of John the Baptist: “an austere man who renounces excess and seeks the essential.”
This, the Pope said, “is the first aspect of conversion: detachment from sin and worldliness. The other aspect of conversion is the search for God and his Kingdom.”
He explained that the abandonment of comforts and a worldly mentality is not an end in itself, but is aimed at obtaining something greater: “the Kingdom of God, communion with God, friendship with God.”
He reflected on the fact that this is not easy “because there are many ties that hold us close to sin: inconstancy, discouragement, unwholesome environments, bad examples.”
Pope Francis said that at times “the push we feel toward the Lord is too weak and it almost seems that God is silent.”
His promises of consolation, he said, seem far and unreal to us, like the image of the caring and attentive shepherd, which resonates today in the Reading from Isaiah (40:1-11).
Conversion is a grace
So, the Pope said, it is easy to fall into the temptation of saying that “it is impossible to truly convert, and instead of converting from the world to God, we risk remaining in the 'quicksand' of a mediocre existence.”
“What can we do in these cases?” he continued: “First of all, remember that conversion is a grace, hence, to be asked of God with fortitude.”
And he invited believers to open themselves up “to the beauty, the goodness, the tenderness of God,” leaving what is “false and fleeting for what is true, beautiful and everlasting.”
Pope Francis concluded recalling that on Tuesday we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception and prayed to Our Lady to help us “to separate ourselves more and more from sin and worldliness, in order to open ourselves to God, to his Word, to his love which restores and saves.”