Conversion is the point of Lent. It’s the turning away from the direction you were headed and finding your bearings aimed in a totally new way. This is meant to happen for each of us regardless of where we are on our spiritual journey because discipleship is a decision we must encounter daily. Conversion is relational…just as taking vows fifteen years ago signified the beginning of the bond with your wife, it is the daily decision to die unto self for her benefit that makes a marriage.
Unfortunately we often look towards Lent as a sort of self help project. A time to curb appetites for certain pleasures so that we can come out of the 40 days being good, or a little better than before. However, this approach to Lent is flawed. It is directed inwardly instead of onwardly…toward the direction that God wants us to move. Fr. Riccardo talked about this Lenten flaw in his recent Ash Wednesday homily.
Tools of the Trade
Give alms…Pray to your Father…Fast without a gloomy face…(Matthew 6:1-18)
Traditionally, Catholics have looked to Jesus’ words in Matthew to forge the tools that Our Lord wants to give us to experience true conversion. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are the three pillars of the Christian life. They are critical tools for our daily decision to convert from our inward approach to life and begin living for the God who is never boring or disinterested. If we find ourselves thinking that God and religion are boring, then we haven’t encountered Him and are projecting our own boring existence onto Him.
For most of us we spend Lent focused only on the fasting part and ignore the other two pillars. Prayer and Almsgiving are just as critical for our conversion and provide ways for us to connect with the One who can bring us true joy and also encounter Him in our brothers and sisters…often appearing in His most distressing disguise.
Now is the time to use all of the tools that were given to us to walk down the path of holiness and experience true conversion during this most Holy season. Pope Francis is constantly drawing us out of our comfort zone and implores us to heed Christ’s call for us to clothe Him, feed Him, give Him drink and visit Him.
“Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.” – Pope Francis
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)