Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

(Jonas 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32)

Religious people have a way of speaking about converts that seems to betray the biblical meaning. Converts are those people who change their religious affiliation. They may have been raised Methodists and have become Catholics. Or they may have been raised Catholics and have become Muslims. The readings today offer a deeper sense of the word.

Although neither the Old Testament nor the gospel reading actually uses “convert” or “conversion,” both have it in mind when they speak of people changing their wicked ways and repenting. Conversion is a change of heart, a new way of living. Alcoholics Anonymous is an association of converts pinning their hopes for sobriety on the grace of God working through the company of fellow travelers. Francis of Assisi was a convert from a bourgeois lifestyle to blessed poverty. So was Ignatius of Loyola who gave up the cavalier life of a soldier to become the Lord’s servant.

During Lent all Christians are called to conversion. But we often find it difficult to recognize how this will take place. It is not that the changes needed are too large to tackle. Rather they seem often too small to bother with. To overcome this obstacle we should isolate one area that calls for a change. For example, we will no longer curse while driving. Then we should describe the behavior that might replace the bad habit. For example, we will offer a short prayer instead of ranting. Finally we have to apply the resolution to the vice daily, and we are likely to see conversion happening faster than we thought possible.