Although, as Christians, we affirm the unconditional love of God, receiving this love and benefiting from its saving power is conditional. God’s unconditional love is not to be equated with all things turning out well in the end no matter what—thereby nullifying all negative consequences. The very nature of love is that it excludes coercion—either by demanding love from another or forcing one’s own love on another. And so that conditional clause in our first reading: If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river. As unconditional as God’s love is, opening ourselves to receive that love by true repentance and ongoing conversion is essential if our prosperity is to be like a river. Conversion, however, exacts a price and so like the crowds who disregarded John as one possessed and Jesus as a glutton, we find excuses for not fully heeding the call to repentance. Through the intercession of Saint John of the Cross may we be granted the strength and wisdom to not imitate them, and by hearkening to God’s call be embraced and redeemed by his unconditional and all-saving love.