Social media was abuzz a few days ago with the story of Milo Yiannopoulou. He was a self-acclaimed “gay” man, provocateur, and activist for many years. He declared that he was now an “ex-gay Catholic” who had abandoned the homosexual lifestyle for good, consecrated his life to St. Joseph, and was now choosing to live a chaste life by the grace of God.
Understandably his comments drew varied reactions. Many people offered him prayers and encouragement in his journey of conversion. But many others mocked and dismissed him as someone seeking cheap publicity. Many depicted him as a constantly vacillating stunt man who could not be trusted in his action and motive. Many even questioned the authenticity of his conversion. Some commentators expressed their doubts that he could actually sustain his new hope to live a chaste life after wallowing in the wicked bondage of homosexuality for many years.
I find these latter negative reactions rather ironic for a culture that prided itself with being non-judgmental and unconditionally accepting of all peoples. It appears that being non-judgmental does not apply to judging the character and motive of someone who publicly rebukes and rejects a depraved lifestyle that is becoming more accepted in both the Church and in society.
How can we dare to judge the authenticity of divine grace working in the soul of a person undergoing conversion? Is it impossible for God to bring a soul to conversion despite the impure motives on the person’s part? Who are we to question the power of divine grace to sustain him in His journey of faith and conversion? Doesn’t our faith teach us that “the preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace?”(CCC 2001)
No matter the motive of Milo’s conversion or his past character, this story reminds us of two indispensable lessons that we must hold on to if we are going to live our Christian life with joy and hope.
The first lesson is that God wants to save His people from all forms of bondage and hopelessness. The truth is that God desires to save us more than we even desire to save ourselves. He would use Moses, initially a cowardly murderer, to save His people from the bondage of Egypt, lead them on the Exodus, and bring them to the threshold of the Promised Land. All God’s people remained unfaithful to Him, all of them “adding infidelity to infidelity.”(2Chr 36:14) After they suffered the exile to Babylon, God used Cyrus, the Pagan king of Persia, to set His people free and to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their destroyed temple. Thank God the Israelites were wise enough not to doubt or question the past characters or motives of the ones that God used to save them from bondage and give them hope!
God’s desire to save us is accompanied by His readiness to save us at any personal cost, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”(Jn 3:16) On His own part, Christ Jesus also loved us so much that He did not only desire our salvation but He was ready to pay the price of offering Himself on the cross in sacrifice for our salvation, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”(Jn 3:15) Indeed God’s love is a love that saves us at any price from all sin, bondages, and hopelessness.
This brings us to the second lesson: the grace of God that Christ won for us on the cross is more powerful that any sin or bondage that we find ourselves in, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to live in Christ.” Ponder this: grace raises us from death! We are brought from spiritual death to the fullness of life not by our works or good motives but by the graces Christ merited for us on the cross, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”(Eph 2:4,8)
These two lessons show that our mere desire to be saved is not enough; we must also be willing to pay the price. But we cannot pay the price. Jesus Christ has done that already and we cannot pay for it or add to it. We can only respond to this divine love that constantly offers us saving grace. We can respond in these five ways.
Firstly, we must receive God’s merciful love and grace as a gift. This gift was merited for us by our Redeemer on the cross. Our trials, temptations, and sufferings must not make us lose the sense of gratitude we should have for the grace of God in our lives. We show our gratitude for this gift by constantly opening our hearts to this grace and responding to it at all cost.
Secondly, we must refuse to condemn ourselves. Remember, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”(Jn 3:17) We render the sacrifice of Christ useless to us when we wallow in self-condemnation after receiving His saving love. We must not do the devil’s work for him because he is the “accuser who accuses the brethren day and night.”(Rev 12:10) We also must not let anyone condemn us because of our past failures. Neither should we accuse someone of a poor motive for conversion.
Thirdly, we learn from our past sins and our experience of the mercy and grace of God. God’s grace demands that we examine ourselves so as to understand the pattern of our sinful choices. This will help us to resist sins in the future. We also learn to depend not on ourselves, but on His mercy and grace that that set us free and move us to begin again at each moment.
Fourthly, we refuse to hide our sins in shame. Remember, “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”(Jn 3:19) Trying to hide our sins only give them the secrecy that they need to grow and spread till they quench all our hope and freedom. We must face them squarely in the light of God’s saving love if we are going to overcome them.
Fifthly, we continue to walk away from darkness towards the light every moment of our lives. The darkness will not clear away on its own.The darkness will fade only when we draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ because He is that light that “shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”(Jn 1:5) We can “live the truth”(Jn 3:21) only by drawing closer to Christ, the light of the world.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our secular cultures are bent on eclipsing the saving power of God’s grace today. They give us the impression that we are hopeless slaves of sin. They tell us that we are condemned to live as slaves of our basest sexual urges which we must gratify even in the most unnatural of ways as in the case of homosexual relationships. We will believe those devilish lies only when we lose our faith in God’s saving love and the power of His grace.
Let us spend time today looking at a crucifix with love. The first thing that we see is the disastrous consequences of our sins. They caused the pain, suffering, and death of the God-man. No matter the many convenient and sanitized names we give to sin today, or our denial of its existence, or the ways we try to justify or normalize them, our sins have grave disastrous consequences. If our sins can kill the God-man, how can they be harmless to us?
The second thing that we see in the crucifix is the saving love of God that pursues us to forgive and save us at any cost. We see the love of the Good Shepherd who “leaves the ninety-nine in search of the lost sheep.”(Mt 18:12) People may make us doubt the power and working of this grace in our lives but we know that this grace is present in us and it has power over any sin or bondage.
Our Eucharist is a re-presentation of Calvary where divine love offers us this grace and mercy that we can never pay for. If we want to be saved, we cannot just desire it; we must also receive these gifts and respond to it now even if our motives are not pure now. Freedom and hope are ours as we continuously respond to this grace.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!