Chapter Talk – First Sunday of Lent – March 1, 2020, cycle-A
The theme of Pope Francis’ message for Lent this year is ‘conversion’. Right at the beginning of his ‘Lenten Message’ he states that the ‘paschal mystery is the basis of conversion.’ Indeed, the backdrop of our Lenten journey is the death and resurrection of Jesus. This event states that ‘now is the time of grace, now is the day of our salvation’. This grace, available now, happens each time we turn from what is not life, and turn towards God….Conversion is a turning from and turning toward: this inner dynamic is a dying or a letting go for life, for God’s love to heal and transform. An authentic conversion is an “inward transformation” (p.233). It impacts our experience…of how we value and decide. This interior shift is profoundly expressed in the thought of Bernard Lonergan. In The New Catholic Dictionary of SpiritualityLonergan’s thought on conversion is expressed “as a set of judgments and decisions that move the human person from an established horizon into a new horizon of knowing, valuing, and acting” (p.234). I like to reflect on this statement, to tease out its essential implications for our journey to God, alone and together.
The process of conversion moves from an established horizon into a new horizon….As we look into our hearts, what is this ‘established’ way out of which we usually act, value and make decisions? Starting small: it could be how we see a sister or how we see a particular situation….or, how we meet a small conflict…or, how we relate one to another…The established horizon of how we live each day points to our inner landscape at any given moment: is my heart suddenly hardened with criticisms of my sister and /or of myself? We have the expression of the ‘old tapes’, those old voices that keep saying things over and over, things that make us feel fearful, anxious, critical, rigid in outlook, closed in heart and mind. Lent begins with the prophetic call of Joel, to have our hearts broken open…broken open for this new horizon of deepening our life in Christ….Jesus is the new wine and the new skin of God’s love and mercy…this transforming life emerges as we allow our hearts to be broken open, even just a little more than it was yesterday.
We come to know God through Jesus. In the gospels we see the horizon of his heart and mind. In today’s gospel of the temptations, Jesus chooses a different kind of ‘power’, not the power that ‘lords it over’ others, not the power that puts himself at the center. Rather it is the power of love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness…it is the transforming power that comes from each self-gift….each offering of our lives so that God indeed may be ‘all in all’. To quote two short texts from the Catholic Dictionary of Spirituality, which show us the grace of ‘conversion’, and the extent of the inner change that the conversion process brings. First, “Conversion is caught up in the mystery of grace operating within human transformation and the potentiality for persons and cultures to become a new creation” (p.230). Second, “For conversion should affect a person from within toward a progressively deeper enlightenment and an ever-closer likeness to Christ” (p.233). These two texts point to the fruit of the conversion process…the fruit of this simple turning from a certain attitude or behavior and a turning towards the healing life of God: we become a new creation, we become more ‘Christ-like’ in mind and heart. One final pithy text: “Conversion is a complex phenomenon that transforms the entire human person….” (p.235). Who does not want this change, this liberation, this opening and expansion of the heart for life, for God, for the world?
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess