Our scripture this Sunday is about continuing conversion. Jeremiah describes the covenant with God as pure heart commitment and Christ talks of drawing all to himself in newness of life and faith. Lets confess any refusal to be converted in our lives..
I’m sure you know St.Francis’s story. A great figure in Italy, in his early life he lived the dissolute life of a rich merchants’ son. But one day God called to him and said: “Francis rebuild my church”. He went around rebuilding old ruined churches until he realised that what God wanted him to do was to restore the one true Catholic church that was in ruins due to the corruption of its leaders and consequent lack of faith among the people. He vowed to live a life of witness to poverty in the church and service of the poor, going around in a rough robe to beg from the rich to give to the needy, and spending his life in prayer. The result was starkling. In a short time myriads of idealistic young men and women joined him. The orders of St.Francis and St.Clare were born which still guide many today. Here we have the mystery of conversion and its fruits such as Christ describes in todays gospel. Francis came out into the light after years of dark uncaring. As Christ says to Nicodemus, all who want to live by the truth must do the same, come out into the light so that what they do is done in God. Francis saw after years of seeking fulfilment in self-glorification where happiness really lay. Lets do the same this Lent. Flawed human beings lets recommit ourselves to serving God and others in love. For every Christian needs frequent conversion, and renewal of faith, hope and charity. Following Christ is a constant struggle to be free.
Yet such freedom from evil in Christ is our only lasting fullness of life and joy. To convince us of this the church puts before us at this time of year not only Christ’s resurrection but also his second coming at the end of time to lead all those who have kept up the struggle of faith, to a final great reward. In that sense its good to keep that final coming before our eyes and prepare for it each day. So that, as the baptism prayer says, we’ll go out to meet Christ with all the saints at last, wearing the white robe of the blest. We must prepare for that every day.
That’s why this lenten season calls us out of the dark of any inner winter to a new spring in our hearts and souls. It calls us to conversion and renewal so that whenever the Lord comes he’ll find us free from the nightmare of sin. I myself say often the words of psalm 30: “A pure heart create for me O lord, and take not your holy spirit from me”. Each of us needs to discover and cling on for dear life to that holy Spirit we have received.
Ignatius of Loyola is a good example of one who did just that; early in life, as a soldier he pursued fulfilment in military glory. But when injured, he discovered not only repentance but the deeper love of serving God. From this conversion he forged his book of Spiritual Exercises to guide his Jesuit fellows & all searching souls. I read recently of Liam Neeson, the great actor. He had a crisis in his Catholic faith, but found his way back through the Exercises. Even doubts in our faith, are really a call to deeper conversion and commitment. Each lent invites us to such deepening. For now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation or damnation for each of us. As Francis and Ignatius realised, vain worldly pursuits cannot fully satisfy the heart. They fade to dust and ashes but in Christ is peace, happiness, truth and blessedness for this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s own called to come anew into Christ’s light this lent and walk with new hearts in that light, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
As the people of God lets pray for all the things we need to keep us secure in the light of God and in the arms his holy church..
For the church that having received the glory of Christ itself it may spread its message of hope and love to the whole world..
For our civil leaders that they may be lights of justice integrity and truth to those they govern..
For youth, that like St.Francis they may discover the real joy of following Christ and serving others and the church selflessly.
For parents that they may inspire their children in the faith by their words but above all by example, this lent and always..
For the sick and the needy in body, mind or soul, that we may be the healing hands of Christ to them through our caring love..
For the dead that freed from their bonds they may come safely to their heavenly home with the help of our prayers..
And we ask all these our prayers through Christ who, glorified by the Father, intercedes for us forever in heaven, amen.
Christians owe much to the early church in Ireland after Patrick. It brought learning and Christian civilization back to Europe in the dark ages. It was in Ireland that a bell was first used to call people to prayer, and it was in early monastic churches there that individual confession came into being. Before that penance was communal; people were excluded from the Christian community until they had expiated their sins. But in the Irish monasteries the confessor was anam cara, a soul friend. This lent lets use the gift of confession to cleanse our souls and make fresh progress in the spiritual life..Hail Mary.