Today we honour the memory of Saint Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle Saint John. Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. Early records state that Saint Polycarp served Christ for 86 years before being martyred at Smyrna (present day Izmir, Turkey), where he was bishop.
You may have watched a film called ‘The Bucket List’ – it’s about two old codgers who meet in hospital and who draw up a list of all the things they would like to do before they die. We all have dreams we’d like to see happen before we die, maybe take a trip around the world, or a ride in a hot air balloon, or go first class on the Orient Express.
Would you believe that God has his own “bucket list” for us? He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to see us fulfil this plan, because he knows it’s the real key to our happiness. His plan for our lives, despite the inevitable ups and downs, will make us far happier than anything we might come up with ourselves.
That’s why it’s important to answer the call to conversion we hear in the first reading, and to remember that conversion is not just a one-time experience. God’s plan isn’t just that we experience his mercy and love once, or even occasionally. His plan is that we become changed more and more into his likeness so that we can experience his love on a deeper level: a love that heals all our wounds, fulfils all our hopes and dreams, and satisfies our thirst for the world.
Ongoing conversion requires that we turn to God in prayer every day so that we can grow in our relationship with him. It’s only through a consistent prayer life that we can come to understand not only God’s love for us but also his plan for our lives. Prayer teaches us that God wants only good things for us. Prayer trains us to place our trust in him and in his perfect plan.
God created us. He knows what we need. He knows what will make us happy. Every day he gives us an opportunity to experience a deep, abiding friendship with him, one that will last for all eternity. Our “bucket list” may contain some wonderful dreams, but none can compare to “what God has prepared for those who love him”.