- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Looking Ahead to Lent: Call and Conversion
This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We begin the Lenten season once more. Lent is all about conversion. It can be about the conversion process embarked upon by a new adult member of the Christian community. Lent is the period leading up to the sacraments of initiation into the church through baptism, confirmation and eucharist, at the Easter Vigil. For these new members, lent is looked at as a time of more intense preparation through prayer, fasting and good works. This, in fact is the early Church origins of the Lenten season for all Christians.
For those of us who were baptized as infants or at another time, lent is important as well. For the whole Christian community, it is the opportunity to reflect on our place in the community and how we live in our world as Christians. The prayer, fasting and good works that we express in lent are to be a lifestyle that marks every day of our lives. The conversion experience that leads to the sacraments of initiation for our new members, is our continuing conversion experience. Being Christian is a life-time process. Lent helps us to revisit and renew who we are and how we express our Christian faith in action.
Luke 6:39-45 tells us a story of invitation. Jesus in the story describes the kind of change that we are called upon to make when we accept the invitation that comes with our baptism, to be disciples. Becoming disciples of Jesus demands a conversion or a turning around of our heart. It is a life-long process of becoming the face of Jesus alive in our world. Our call to mission might seem to focus on things outside ourselves, tasks and actions we carry out in our world. But it is founded on the interior, the heart – this is where conversion truly takes place.
Conversion, is really a call that reaches within. It is a turning around of our heart. There is an initial call from outside ourselves – setting out to discover the meaning of Jesus the Christ and the face of God that Jesus reveals. It is often through persons we have met, or communities that have welcomed us. With that sense of support and inclusion that we all need we gain the desire to be part of what we have experienced.
We may not use this term, but we begin a quest or search for what we have discovered. This search is not quick, nor is it just for a moment. We discover that life is full of this searching or questing. Sometimes there are moments of sensing discovery, others we seem to just grind along. Our journey is a faith journey and it is filled with seeking, questioning, wondering and searching, always with much uncertainty. Then somehow, we become more firmly convinced that this is our own. We discover we are disciples of Jesus the Christ and ready to live this in the ordinary routine of our lives, and there is peace in this. This is really only the planting of a seed, a new beginning.
Conversion needs to go always deeper. It is a continual process for a lifetime. It is in fact, a continual turning of our hearts. As Luke puts it: Out of the good treasure of heart, the good person produces good (Luke 6:45). God plants the seed through the many encounters beyond ourselves, but the seed grows from within us. Every year, this is the blessing and gift of Lent.
What might I do this Lent, to nurture the seed God has planted in my heart?