For the next several weeks, the Church’s liturgical cycle gives us many stories of the conversions of early Christians. Thomas will place his hand in Jesus’ side; two disciples will feel their hearts burning within them on the road to Emmaus; and Peter and the other Apostles will witness to Christ even in the face of certain persecution.
In these stories, conversion is portrayed as a radical, one-time event that profoundly affects what a person believes and how a person acts. And indeed it is. We need look no further than events such as the dramatic conversion of St. Paul on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus to show the power of one moment.
In our own lives, too, we have dramatic moments that change our minds, hearts and lives and help us thirst more deeply for the Lord. The In Focus in this week’s issue (Pages 9-12), an OSV tradition, is devoted to the conversion or reversion stories of our readers. Each account is filled with beautiful moments that drew each person closer to God and his Church.
We witness dramatic conversion moments, too, at Easter Vigils around the world, as new Catholics are baptized and confirmed — and we welcome them into the fold with pride and joy.
But these moments, while profound, are only part of the story. Rather than a one-time incident, conversion must also be a lifelong process of growing in holiness. And that challenge isn’t just for newcomers to the Faith, but for all of us.
The past six weeks of Lent have been the perfect time to kick into high gear. We have stretched and sacrificed. We have prayed and gone out of our way to assist the poor and needy. In short, we have embarked upon a season of conversion.
During the next seven weeks of Easter, we have the opportunity to continue along the path of transformation. We are able to ask ourselves: Are we growing ever closer to the Lord in holiness?
Are we being an Easter people?
If we need a boost in our mission, all we need to do is look back to those first Christians. The powerful conversions of those in this early community were made possible because of how well they understood the transforming power of Jesus.
They were willing to give up anything and everything — even life itself — rather than surrender their total commitment to him. Can we say the same? Does it even enter our thoughts?
The Church, especially now under the guidance of Pope Francis, gives us the answer to how to continue our conversions. Serve the poor. Live the Gospel. Encounter Jesus’ message with an open heart. It takes effort, but it’s an effort that must be embraced by each one of us.
As the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our hearts must burn within us as we encounter the Lord. And we are only able to do this if we open our hearts to the transforming power of the resurrected Christ.
As Pope Francis said in his Urbi et Orbi message last Easter, the Resurrection means that “the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.” But this, he stressed, is an invitation we have to accept.
“Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too,” he said. “And let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
Have a blessed Easter!
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor