March 11March 11 Editorial: Saint’s wisdom can lead to conversion during the Lenten season and beyond (March 17, 2023)

March 17, 2023


Saint’s wisdom can lead to conversion during the Lenten season and beyond

Conversion is the task of a moment; sanctification is the work of a lifetime. The divine seed of charity, which God has sown in our souls, wants to grow, to express itself in action, to yield results which continually coincide with what God wants. Therefore, we must be ready to begin again, to find again—in new situations—the light and the stimulus of our first conversion. And that is why we must prepare with a deep examination of conscience, asking our Lord for his help, so that we’ll know him and ourselves better. If we want to be converted again, there’s no other way. (St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, a Spanish priest who founded Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness by God and to discover sanctity in their ordinary live.)

The words St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, who died in 1975, shared in a homily on the first Sunday of Lent in 1952, speak to people of faith about a lifetime of conversion.

And as we mark the halfway point of Lent, it seems appropriate to ask: How are we doing? In increasing the time we spend in prayer? In fasting, not only from meat on Friday, but from gossiping, spending too much time in front of screens or in other things that deter us on our journey as disciples? In almsgiving, in sharing our gifts with our brothers and sisters in need?

A friend, who I consider a faithful Catholic, recently offered this wisdom about Lent. He said his pastor, during his Ash Wednesday homily last year, reminded his congregation that no matter how hard they try, human nature will cause many of them to invariably fall at one time or another in their Lenten practices. And the priest told his parishioners that was OK, because as St. Escrivá shared in his Lenten homily seven decades ago, “We must be ready to begin again, to find again—in new situations—the light and the stimulus of our first conversion.”

Beginning again. Starting anew. Forging ahead and not looking back. As disciples of Christ—despite our best efforts—many, if not all of us, have fallen short in our Lenten practices. And that’s OK, because our faith reminds ongoing conversion is possible for those of us who truly seek it.

The Gospel on the third Sunday of Lent last weekend focused on Jesus and his conversation with the Samaritan woman at a well. They were strangers able to have a civil conversation, which seems unlikely in today’s polarized society. Sadly, it is far from the norm.

But the heartfelt conversation our Savior engaged in with the woman—where he as a Jew was not afraid to speak to a Samaritan woman, shared portions of her life story and talked about giving her “living water” so the woman would never thirst again—led to her conversion. And the message she shared about Jesus back in her hometown—her work of evangelization—led many Samarians to want to meet him, leading to spending time with him and undergoing their conversion as they recognized Christ was “ … truly the Savior of the world” (Jn 4:42).

Like the woman and other Samaritans in this Gospel story, we understand that, in real conversion, we come away changed. And on our journey as missionary disciples, it leads us to thirst for more.

If you’ve fallen short in your Lenten practices, we encourage you to begin anew. And we also encourage those who are seeking God’s healing and grace to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation. The Criterion has a list of Lenten penitential opportunities featured on page 16 in this week’s issue.

It is our responsibility as believers in Jesus during Lent—and in every liturgical season—to allow his wisdom to guide our living.

We must be ready to begin anew. May that be the case so Christ can continually transform our lives.

—Mike Krokos

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