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April 30, 2017 – Third Sunday of Easter

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Have you ever experienced a conversion?  I sure have.  I have experienced a few conversions in my life.  My most significant conversion came when I joined the Church.  I am a convert to Catholicism.  I was born and raised as a Protestant.  And, the flavor of protestant church that I grew up in didn’t think too highly of Catholics.

My conversion began with a girl…my wife, now of 27 years.  But, because my parents didn’t approve of my conversion, it was tough.  It seems like so long ago when my parents wrote me a letter outlining the fact that I would lose my salvation if I became Catholic.  Are you shocked by that?  I can’t believe it even now as I just read what I wrote.  It took many years for my wife and I to find healing from that experience.

Growing up, we took the scriptures literally.  So, if we took the scriptures with a literal interpretation, how come the precious body and blood of Christ was looked at as just a symbol?  I didn’t know.  It was always a question in the back of my mind.

In the first reading we see Peter in a whole new light from just a couple of weeks ago.  Peter was chosen by Jesus to lead the Church, and yet Peter denied Christ…not once…but three times.  But, just like me, Peter went through a conversion.  Jesus saw the real heart and leadership potential in Peter.  Peter has now taken charge with a zealousness that is unmatched.  He is no longer afraid of his association with Jesus.  Peter has transformed.

As Catholics, we love to do good works.  This may come to a shock to you, but doing good works doesn’t get you into Heaven.  Don’t get me wrong here…we should do good works.  We are called to be the very hands and feet of Jesus for the world.  But, here’s the deal…our good works are never good enough on their own merit.  The second reading outlines that by saying that we were “ransomed from your futile conduct.”

We were just having this conversation at home.  My middle son, Sam (17), told me a story about a guy who died.  At the gates of Heaven, St. Peter told the guy that he needed 150 points to get into Heaven.  So, St. Peter asked the guy, “Were you a good man?”

The guy thought about it and said, “Yes.  I was a good man.  I tried to do the right thing.”

St. Peter then responded, “Great!  You get 2 points.”

The guy paused and thought for a moment because he only received 2 points for being a good man and there is a long way to go to get to 150.  Then St. Peter asked, “Were you a good husband?”

The man quickly answered, “Yes.  I did my best to be a good husband to my wife.  I made mistakes along the way, but I loved her very much.”

St. Peter replied, “Awesome!  3 more points!”

The man broke down in tears.  He said to St. Peter, “I’m never going to make it to 150 points!  I’m never going to make it into Heaven!  Jesus!  Please show me your mercy and grace!”

St. Peter then replied, “150 Points!  You’re in!”

It’s a cute joke.  It makes me smile every time I hear it.  Without Christ and his perfect sacrifice, we just aren’t good enough.  Our efforts are “futile conduct” as outlined in the second reading.  We need the mercy and grace of Jesus.

Then there is the Gospel.  As a convert, this is one of my favorite stories.  The disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus…and not a short distance.  Suffice it to say that these guys probably got more than their 10,000 steps in that day.  Jesus comes and walks with them, but they couldn’t tell it was him.  They were “prevented from recognizing him”.  Jesus came to offer them encouragement.  They were having trouble believing in the resurrection.   Can you blame them?  People aren’t exactly raised from the dead every day.

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.”

They needed an attitude adjustment and Jesus gave it to them.  And, in the end, Jesus gave us himself in the Eucharist.  Their hearts burned within them…and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

As a convert to Catholicism, this is a huge deal for me.  In my mind, the Eucharist is the very reason to be Catholic.  It is the real presence of Jesus for us at each Mass.  But, believing that Jesus is real in the Eucharist isn’t easy either.  I can identify with the disciples and their lack of belief.  Maybe that is why Jesus appeared to them on the road to Emmaus in the first place?

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