This is the Time of Conversion

The Lord be with you!

Several years ago, while walking with my brothers along a bike trail in southwestern, Minnesota, I learned a valuable lesson on conversion. As we walked and chatted, another man, approximately my same age, approached us and asked with great fervor: “Are you saved?” Slightly taken aback by the question (and with my grinning brothers looking to me for help) I responded after a brief pause, “Sure, I think I’m saved.” But immediately he responded, “Are you certain?” Again, I hesitated but answered, “Yes, I am a Catholic, and I believe if I live my life properly and that my personal relationship with Jesus is strong and yes, I will be saved.” But the man was persistent: “How do you know? When were you saved? It is essential that you be certain.” By this time I was getting a bit frustrated, but answered, “I cannot tell you a particular date and time; I’ve always tried to live my life as a Catholic.” While it was clear that my answer did not completely satisfy the man, he left us and went on asking, I suspect, the same question to others on the trail.

This incident reminded me that conversion is not, for most people, a single event or incident in their life. Certainly, we can point to dramatic one-time conversions. St. Paul was literally transformed instantly when Jesus challenged him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b). Paul’s conversion, like many other famous people in history, and even people today, was immediate, as it seems was the experience of the
man on the bike trail. However, for most, conversion is a daily process.

Our experience at this time challenges us to see conversion in our lives as a daily process. Each and every day, we have the opportunity to be converted, to draw closer to Christ, and to better, and more fully understand, our Christian responsibility to complete Jesus’ work in our world. This daily conversion process challenges us to remove ourselves from the great temptations of the world and seek, in their place, the things of God. Specifically, we need to be converted from our fascination with the three major temptations of power, wealth, and prestige.

Now is the time to renew our relationship with God through prayer. We know of our need to pray, both to speak, and to listen to God. We all have been very busy people and, seemingly, always find some excuse why we cannot pray, why we cannot take sufficient time to be in conversation with the source of our life. But, now, no excuses. We all need to pray and, as St. Paul says, to do so at all times (Colossians 4:2). We can consider praying the Rosary, spending time reading the Bible, Praying the Stations of the Cross, praying with the virual Masses and making an effort to think of others in our daily activities. In short, we need to take the time that is necessary to be in communication with our God. We might not see tangible, nor immediate results from our time in prayer, but God listens to our requests, and speaks to us, generally in the silence of our hearts.

Now is a time to be converted, an opportunity to be transformed away from the great temptations of the world—power, wealth, and prestige—and to be converted toward our need to fast, be reconciled, give alms and pray. If we, as individuals and as a community, can make this season of grace a time of our personal and collective conversion, then our own lives, and those of the community of faith, will be made better, and we will be properly prepared to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our faith, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God loves you!

Fr. Tim Biren, MN State Chaplain