I had a a conversation yesterday before mass with a parishioner that planted a seed in me that I didn’t know was planted until now, as I write this. My inspiration for this reflection is what she said to me in our discussion about the limitations of our Church: “The church needs to see some things differently. We have to be more open.” Simple words that “rose up” within me as I pray on this beautiful Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Paul was a devout Jew, so committed to the Torah and his religious faith that he fought hard against any “outside” influences from the gentile world. But something happened to Paul, formerly named Saul, on one of his journeys to Damascus to seek out the followers of Jesus and arrest them. God had other plans for him: a “blinding light” overwhelmed Paul’s senses, as his eyes were blinded and the ears of his heart opened, allowing God’s words to penetrate his heart, like a “double edged sword” slicing through his pride and condescension.
In short, the conversion of Paul is a celebration of God, Christ, “renting” Paul’s heart, opening it, softening it, to expand and breathe the breath of the Spirit to see things differently, to expand the horizons of faith. His conversion was to see the world, not as divided between Jew and Gentile, but as one that brings together people from different “worlds” into one uniting them in those differences. A symphony has many notes and many movements, ALL coming together to create something beautiful.
My conversation yesterday opened my mind in a refreshing way to once again realize that each one of us is undergoing a conversion that is always evolving, growing deeper, to “see things differently,” more expansive and all encompassing. Our church must consistently surrender to the Spirit as it guides and pushes frontiers further and further away. And note only the frontiers of the world, but the frontiers within each of our hearts.
Hearts get hardened when we stop evolving, when we think we have it all “sewed up,” so to speak, idolizing our current vision. Conversion never ends in this life, it’s not a once and for all experience, but one that gradually unfolds over time and in time... if only we let it.
Peace Fr. Frank.
- Lent begins three weeks from this Wednesday. How will you celebrate this journey of conversion?