In today's Gospel we hear that Jesus saw the crowds and He was moved with compassion towards them because they were like sheep scattered without a shepherd, (Mt. 9:36). This is what moved God to send His Son in the first place. He looked at a world lost and wandering in the ravages of sin. He could not remain indifferent to the plight of those whom He loved. So He sent us a Savior. In fact, He came Himself to save us.
This is the Gospel: that God was in Christ Jesus not counting our sins against us, but reaching out to us with divine mercy to grant life where there had been death (2 Co. 5:19). It is the greatest love story ever told. So why is it that so many are so adverse to hearing it.
It is because the story does not stop there. It calls for conversion. What is conversion? It is to be transformed by God's Grace from sinners into saints. It is a process, not an event. This process is difficult- very difficult. In fact, apart from God's Grace, it is impossible.
In fairy tales, the hero dashes in to rescue the damsel in distress and win her love. They marry and live happily ever after. This is why they are fairy tales. Real life doesn't work like that. Marriages that last a lifetime require lots of effort. They require the growth and stretching of both husband and wife. No marriage is trouble-free. There are always issues to be faced.
Our relationship with God is no different. Jesus has come and rescued us and seeks to win our love that we would choose to love Him forever. But this requires effort- lots of effort. Along the way we will be tempted to go astray and re-imprison ourselves in the mesh of sin. We will be seduced to seek other lovers. To resist is difficult. To pursue holiness is a hard path.
This is why so many are so adverse to this wonderful message of the Gospel. They don't think it's worth all the "hassle". They couldn't be any more wrong!
Conversion, as I said, is a process. It begins with the Grace of God in our hearts long before we realize God is at work within us. He is wooing us. He is seeking to draw us to Himself. Then we begin to seek Him. We have questions. We investigate. Finally, we make a decision to follow Jesus. But that is really just the beginning.
From there, we are in need of instruction about the Faith. Then we must be baptized. Then we must continue to receive instruction, learning how to develop a life of prayer and good works in Christ. This lasts a lifetime.
It is obvious to see why so many are so adverse to conversion. Instead, they look to take the easy way out. They ignore God, or they remake Him in their image. Or, perhaps they just choose the "easy-believism" of those who preach that to be a Christian is just a matter of faith and a moment of decision to receive Jesus. This is terribly over simplified, and, consequently, it is terribly deceptive. Real conversion, as I have said, requires effort- lots of effort. It requires this effort for a lifetime, and, we believe, requires some sort of effort even after death as one undergoes the final purgation of all effects of sin.
Does this mean that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient, or He is unable to indeed save us to the uttermost? By no means. It is just the reality that to know God- to be saved from sin- is a joint effort between God and man. He has a part, and so do we. His part is to provide salvation through the work of Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension. Our part is to respond in faith, love, and obedience. We cannot do His part, and He will not do ours. This relationship is what is called conversion. It is something we are all in need of daily.