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Converting the Heart

Converting the Heart

March 2, 2023

Chapter Talk – First Sunday of Lent – February 26, 2023, cycle-A 

“Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn” (Joel 2:13).  What is the prophet Joel saying?  Clearly it is a poetic metaphor: God does not desire to hurt us…this is about enlarging the heart…converting the heart, making the heart as wide and deep as that of the heart of Christ.  The heart is to be broken open for love, for love to increase, for forgiveness and mercy to lead over a critical demeanor, over a hardened heart. 

“Your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God” (1 Co 2:5) says St. Paul.  Our faith is to be dependent on the power of God.  Otherwise, what power are we relying on?  Is this not also connected to allowing our hearts by grace to be broken open more…for the purpose of our faith being more dependent on God…on God’s power to heal…on God’s power to transform.  So, what are we to do, then, if we desire our hearts to be more open and expansive, more available to the Divine promptings, ready to extend love and mercy to anyone who hurts us?  What are we to do for our faith to depend more on God, on God’s healing and transformative power?  We can dare to pray: ‘Break my heart open O God for love’s sake’.  Still, what else?

Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict gives us an exhortation for Lent.  This chapter opens by saying the character of monastic life or the life of a monastic “ought to be a continuous Lent”. It adds that since we are too weak for this all the time, let us give special attention to it during the Lenten season. To repeat: the essential nature of the monastic is to be Lenten in character!!!  This does not mean a rigid ascetic whose head is hanging down.  Lent means ‘spring’…it is about life…doing whatever we can to bring forth Divine life.  The Rule continues to say: ‘behold this is the time’, this is the time “to look at the integrity of your lives”.  We do this, dear sisters, not with eyes of guilt, but with the eyes and heart of compassion, for that is how the gaze of God is upon us.  Should this not be our daily practice: looking at the integrity of my life?

Fr. Michael Casey wrote: “Christian life consists not so much in being good as in becoming God.  The Holy Spirit’s work in us goes beyond the reformation of our morals.  It is a matter of forming us so that we become sharers in the divine nature and, because of this, capable of fulfilling the impossible demands that the New Testament imposes upon us.  We can begin acting as Jesus taught, not because of some titanic effort of will on our part, but because we have become different beings” (Fully Human Fully Divine, p.vii).  Framing Lent like this means we are preparing for the joy of Easter by putting our focus on becoming ‘Christ like’ in mind and heart.  We desire conversion so to become sharers in the divine nature.  By only focusing on our sinful ways, we miss the larger horizon of the “call and the gift to be as God is” (p.vii).  More than at the level of morals, we are being changed, converted interiorly, shaped, formed into the divine nature by the Holy Spirit.  Can we see Lent as a time of commingling our human nature with the divine-human nature of Christ?  We are to die with him in order to rise with him…to die for love’s sake and to rise with the love that has conquered death and transformed evil.  Psalm 50 speaks of this deeper conversion process: “Indeed you love truth in the heart”.  “A pure heart, a heart of integrity create for me O God”.  My sacrifice “A contrite heart”, meaning a heart open to conversion for the purpose of becoming as God is, for the purpose of sharing in the divine nature.

 Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

 

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