The word conversion many times puts us in crisis because we do not understand what it really means. Just an improvement on our previous records of holiness? A renovation of some sorts in our spiritual life? Or a radical change of lifestyle? These two stories may help.
In ancient Greece, the marathon contest was the most illustrious of all races. All the main athletes of the country were there. This was a unique moment to show their skills. Then there appeared this fine man, muscular physique, obviously well trained. The other athletes realized immediately they had no chance of winning the race. So, some of them tried to bribe him out of the race, offering him good sums of money, even property. This athlete did not budge. He was all focused on winning. The prize was a magnificent garland of flowers and the honor of standing beside the king until the conclusion of the other contests. And sure enough, he won easily, outdistancing the others by a good measure.
When all the commotion was over, some of his close friends approached him and asked him whether it was worthwhile to sacrifice all those good offers of money and land for a garland of flowers. His answer was simple. “I did not enter the race for the flowers. I ran so that I could stand beside my king!”
This is conversion! We are ‘running’ in life not for a bunch of flowers – whatever the flowers may be in our lives – but to stand besides ‘our’ King.
Ignace Jan Paderewski was one of the most renowned pianist in the whole world. He came from Poland and his debut at Carnegie Hall in the US was in 1891. One day he accepted the invitation to attend a piano recital in which his friend’s small girl was going to play. The girl however, when she saw the famous pianist sitting in the audience – she knew Paderewski very well because of the friendship with her father – got stage fright and made a complete mess of her piece. She broke down in tears. At that, Paderewski stood up, went up the stage, tenderly kissed her on the forehead and left. It was an emotional moment for many who witnessed the scene.
Obviously if she had not made the mistake and failed, she would not have received a kiss of love and understanding from the master pianist. If it is not for all our messiness and faltering we shall never experience the tender kisses of our master God! This also is conversion!
Many times God does not appear to be fair. Jacob was denounced by God for his conniving ways an yet he was preferred to his brother Esau. David was disowned for his adultery, treacherous murder and many bloody battles that he staged and yet he was chosen to lead the nation. The adulteress was not condemned for her open disregard of the moral laws. Peter was not disowned by God after his blatant denial of Christ in the courtyard. Paul chosen for an important mission even if persecuted the Christians in his early life.
Why? That is the question: Why? And the answer is because there is nothing in the world as tenacious and resolute as the grace of God. This also is conversion!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.