Conversion, or change, draws us closer to Christ and is necessary to grow in our mission of serving him through others
by Sister Sally Ann Brickner
Conversion is at the heart of Franciscan communal living. During his life, St. Francis of Assisi repeatedly recalled the moment as a young man when he dismounted from his horse and embraced the leper. That which had been bitter and repulsive to him became sweet and wholesome. Through God’s grace he began to change, gradually to be converted. In his rule based on the Gospels he asked the same of his followers ... to be continuously and totally converted.
Conversion. Why speak about this particular value on the feast of the Ascension of the Lord? What relevance does conversion have for this feast? For 40 days after His Resurrection, Holy Scripture says, the disciples would “see Jesus” appear among them. Through these “manifestations,” he sought to strengthen their faith, to boost their hope, to increase their love. Yet, Jesus didn’t want them to become dependent on his physical presence among them. Today, St. Luke tells us in both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus disappeared from their sight. The disciples were told to return to Jerusalem and wait there for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon them.
What are we called to do? On this feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we must not stand looking up, searching for Jesus in the skies. We will not find him there. Instead, we must turn our gaze outward. Look for Jesus who goes before us into history, drawing us into the future. Look for Jesus as he calls us to form an authentic community of love. Look for Jesus whose face is reflected in those who live among us and who live on the margins -- the widows, the orphans, the migrants, the formerly incarcerated, those who suffer addictions. This is the Church’s mission -- that we be fully and totally converted to see Jesus in one another.
St. Teresa of Avila offered us these words of wisdom: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
What is this but a call to deep conversion?