There is a paradox we experience in our lives and in society that is so subtle, it is hardly obvious. It is this: we say we want to change our lives for the better, but often that is not true. There are aspects of our lives we say we want to improve, but in reality we love where we are. When I was a student in Italy, a beggar was offered a job, but he was terrified of working that he gave up the offer and went back to begging. It is hard to understand how this man preferred begging to working. After all, there is dignity in working. At times we say we would like to be more loving and forgiving, but in truth we have a love for malice, self-pity, for keeping resentment and grudges. We want to love others, care for them, and make time to nurture our relationship with God. But sometimes deep inside, we are afraid to leave our comfort zone. We want life to bow down to our needs and plans, rather than follow the course on which we are being directed by Providence. In simple terms, we are afraid to be disturbed even in our unhappy situation. It is a huge paradox: people want to be happy and to love and be loved. But at the same time they sabotage opportunities to be truly happy, loving and being loved. If they don’t sabotage opportunities, they become accomplices in their own miserable life. They THINK they want to be happy, but what they TRULY DESIRE is misery! It sounds strange, but that is why it is a serious paradox; difficult to see without an honest awareness of desires within us.
This paradox could be the fundamental reason why people refuse to go to Church. It is also the reason why many go to Church but rarely want a true relationship with Jesus Christ. They are afraid that if they become close to Jesus, their lives would never be the same; they would lose the freedom to live as they want; they would not be able to pursue whatever they desire without having to find out God’s will for them. Church going becomes a private business or satisfaction of a guilty conscience, but not an encounter with God in Jesus Christ. If you meet Jesus, your life will NEVER be the same. That is the fear. Love of God and others will be the perspective in which you think, act and relate. It is the only way for true happiness and fulfillment: we must consciously embark on the journey back home to God who is love!
This is why Jesus began his ministry by inviting us to repent and believe the gospel. Repentance is not merely turning away from sin, for we will always make mistakes! Repentance is to turn completely around and come home to God, so that our worldview becomes inhabited by our relationship with Our Lord through the values of the gospel. Repentance means to take on the perspective of God and live within it. In this way repentance heals us from the root, and does not merely patch up our symptoms of unhappiness and frustrations. Turning around and going home to God frees us from the false desires and ideologies that imprison us. It frees us to love truly, sincerely and to receive love even more abundantly. In letting God lead us home, we will realize that we all come from love and only through loving and constantly forgiving can we reach the fullness of our life. Ask yourself these questions: what are those aspects of my life that I am not so willing to hand over to Jesus Christ? How does this paradox show itself in my life? And if you honestly see this paradox in your life, do not be ashamed or feel guilty. All you need to do is acknowledge it, and ask for the grace of God to lead you to true freedom. Our Lord is always there for us, with His unfailing love to lead you home. May you be blessed as you do this spiritual work. Amen