- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Lent: Ashes and Conversion
Here we are – Lent again. Our season began with our experience of Ash Wednesday. The ashes we used came from fire. Whatever their source, these ashes came from a burning process, a way of transformation. They represent the change that is brought about, when we let the finger God touch our lives and open ourselves to God’s plan for all life. The season is one of discovery and conversion, and one we share with the community in which we live and believe.
In our tradition, Lent is a time of penance and giving up – but also a time of idealism and promise. It is about setting aside those elements of our lives which impede the goodness of God’s dream for us. Lent is about turning away from the temptations, the “stuff” that is hurtful, wasteful and dehumanizing in our lives and in our world. It calls us to let go of some aspects of our lives which get in the way of being the person and the world that God intends us to be. More specifically we might say that it is about giving up – many things, many habits and many behaviors which do not nurture and bring life to others or to ourselves.
Lent is also about becoming. It is about turning around to be the person and the world of God’s plan for us. It is about turning away from self-centeredness and selfishness, turning towards God and to those many “others” who are part of our lives. It is about using our time and our energy in life-giving ways – that we may become the person that God has intended and called us to be. The season reminds us of the goodness that lies within each and every one of us. It proclaims to us and to our world the message of promise and hope that reveals God’s love for all creation.
On this First Sunday of the Lenten season, we hear Luke’s account of Jesus’ own discovery of God’s dream. Having been baptised by John and filled with the Holy Spirit, he embarks on the mission he has been given by the Father. The first step for Jesus is to go out into the desert, “the wilderness”. There he is tempted to reject the mission. His resistance to the temptations is a sign of his interior conversion and his willingness to accept the call he has been given (Luke:1-13).
The story in Luke tells the story of Jesus acceptance of mission. It is also our own story. We are called to mission by our faith. Like Jesus we are challenged to live and proclaim the goodness of God’s reign in our own lives, in the midst of our world. Doing so, demands that we undergo transformation. This is a continual and constant process of conversion. Only with transformation of our own humanity can we transform our world into God’s dream.
Conversion is about more than leaving behind what we have been. It is about becoming someone renewed. It is changing ourselves bit by bit so that we may be life-giving to our world and to others. In other words, how can you and I be the face of God’s love where we are?