Transforming Us from Within
Christ in the House of His Parents (John Everett Millais)

Transforming Us from Within

There’s a man in Ohio named Marcus Grodi who served for a long time as a Protestant minister until he felt an undeniable calling to do something completely unexpected: to become a Catholic. He then founded a ministry named the Coming Home Network, which over the years has helped many Protestants enter the Catholic Church—including hundreds of clergy. All these previously unthinkable things can only happen, of course, through God’s grace, and writing about the power of this grace, Mr. Grodi says, “I have found that it is through the little things that God communicates that He is very near.”

“There was the time when I went skiing and lost a contact lens at the very top of a steep, snowy slope. Without my contacts, I am nearly blind—I could not safely ski without my lens. I prayed for God to help me, knelt in the snow, and found it. . . . the odds of finding a tiny, clear contact in the snow assured me that God had heard my prayer. On another occasion, I had the feeling I needed to return to the parking [lot] to get a book I had left in my car. It was raining and it was not essential that I have the book right then, but still, the feeling that I should get the book nagged at me. I gave in to the feeling and returned to my car. When I inserted the key, I stepped on something. It was my wallet. I must have dropped it on the ground earlier. Too often people say, ‘Wasn’t I lucky?,’ or ‘What a coincidence!’ . . . But when we have come to the place in our spiritual journey when our first instinct is to respond ‘That was Jesus!’ and ‘Thank you, Lord,’ then we can be reassured that our hardened hearts have been converted by the grace of our loving God” ( Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, & Patti Armstrong, Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, p. 255). Marcus Grodi speaks of very simple events, and rightly so—for these are often the moments in which God reveals Himself, if we’re willing to pay attention. What we call fortunate “coincidences” are often signs that the Kingdom of God is indeed all around us.

Sometimes the Lord makes Himself known in dramatic ways. As the prophet Jonah (3:1-5, 10) warned in bold and unmistakable words, the city of Nineveh was about to be destroyed by God in a presumably terrible and spectacular way—though the people’s heartfelt repentance allowed the Lord instead to demonstrate His great mercy. Most of the time, however, the Lord speaks in a softer manner. In the Gospel of Mark (1:14-20), Jesus didn’t begin by working great miracles when He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and His invitation to the first apostles was one they could easily have ignored. Later the apostles would witness the Lord perform amazing signs, but at the beginning they responded to His low-key summons because their hearts were open. Even as St. Paul (1 Cor 7:29-31) tells us that the world in its present form is passing away, for most of us one relatively routine day follows another—but each of these “ordinary” days offers us many opportunities to experience God’s blessings, share His love, and grow in His grace.

An elderly widow named Jacqueline spent all her time caring for her grown daughter Marie, who was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. When Marie died, Jacqueline lost her purpose in life. Her small cottage seemed empty and lonely; occasionally a friend or relative would call, but overall the solitude became very oppressive. Then one day, while reading the Bible, Jacqueline came across St. Paul’s words “The Lord is near” (Phil. 4:5), and she thought, “If the Lord is near, I should try to be more aware of it.” She prayed, “Lord, I’m going to use my God-given imagination to visualize how present You are, and I ask You to help me remind myself of Your presence.” From then on, Jacqueline began talking to the Lord throughout the day in a very down-to-earth manner: “I’m going to bed now, Lord; please watch over me as I sleep,” or “I’m getting up now; I thank you for this new day,” or “Thank You for this food I’m having for breakfast,” or “Now that lunch is over, Jesus, let’s watch the news on TV, so You can show me people suffering and in need for whom I should pray,” or “As I read this book, Lord, teach me something important I didn’t know before,” and so on. As Jacqueline began imagining she was talking to Someone right there in the room with her, her attitude changed. Her loneliness lessened, her joy increased, and she felt she was doing her part—in a simple, humble, but important way—to help make God’s Kingdom more present in the world (Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, p. 397).

Each one of us is also called to be more aware of God’s presence in our lives, and to let this awareness begin changing or transforming us from within. This process can begin here in church. The angels and saints are here with us, also worshipping God—and if we can see them in our imagination, so much the better. The Lord Himself is speaking to us in the words of Scripture, and presiding at the altar—and in a short while He will actually enter within us in Holy Communion. When we leave here, we can choose to take His presence with us back to our homes—and in our homes we should have crucifixes and religious statues and pictures to remind us that He is with us. We should also try to think of Jesus and His Mother Mary throughout the day, along with our guardian angels and favorite saints, speaking to them very simply and freely whenever we have a spare moment. Even if we only have a few seconds, we can silently thank them, ask for their help, and share our joys, sorrows, worries, and other feelings. The more we try to live in this manner, the more we will be aware of and part of God’s Kingdom, whether through clear moments of grace, or simple, fortunate coincidences—and the more we will be able to bear witness to Jesus in our words and deeds, and find great joy in doing so.

Jesus summoned some simple, relatively uneducated fishermen to follow Him—and their obedience to His call and their openness to God’s grace helped change the world. Our own efforts to live out and share the Gospel probably won’t be nearly as dramatic as that of the apostles, or even of former Protestant ministers who converted to Catholicism, but we too can help make a real difference simply by becoming more aware of God’s presence and by allowing Him to work through us and touch the people around us. As Jesus says, “This is the time of fulfillment; the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It’s up to each one of us to believe, remember, and share this good news by the way we live.

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper