As we spy the half-way marker on our Lenten journey, it might be good to recall the words that started this journey on Ash Wednesday. These same words will see us through to Easter Sunday and beyond: “Repent and believe the Good News.” More than words they are an invitation us to do an about-face, turning from what is penultimate, not fulfilling, not life-giving to what is ultimate, enduring and life-giving. In Biblical parlance, it is about turning from death to life. And if we could narrow it down to one word, that word would be “conversion”.
While we are made in the image of God—our DNA is divine—we are called to grow in the likeness of God. This growing in the likeness of God is a lifelong process. As a friend of mine once put it, “Phil, it’s easy being a Catholic; it’s hard being a Christian.” She was right. The first just requires a priest and some holy water; the second requires a daily commitment to live as Jesus did.
Fr. Richard Rohr names the conversion process as construction, de-construction, and re-construction. First we construct a persona, a way of seeing ourselves and seeing the world. Most of us would do anything to maintain this world view. But then, into our lives, comes a prophet who challenges us to widen the boundaries of our self-constructed frame work. Usually, at great expense to himself/herself, the prophet reminds us that the world we live in is too small. Prophets are the de-constructionists of our times who want us to grow and are willing to pay the price because of our resistance. No pain, no gain. Prophets de-construct the real so that we can experience the really Real…God. This experience of the really Real is the final step of conversion. This is re-construction. We are now on solid ground.
The late Paul Ricoeur (French philosopher) uses different terms to describe the same process: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. It all amounts to the same. Jesus, the prophet of all prophets, disorients our world view (our little kingdoms) so as to invite us to reorient ourselves within a larger world view (The Kingdom!). If we accept the invitation, we become reoriented and new possibilities open up for us, and out of the ashes we rise.