Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus... Stephen... the apostles... Paul... Agnes... Felicity... Perpetua... Joan of Arc... Marianist martyrs... Martin Luther King Jr.... JFK... RFK... Archbishop Oscar Romero... Ita Ford... Dorothy Kazel... Jean Donovan... Maura Clark... Dorothy Stang... and countless others... Murdered for speaking truth... asking for conversion of hearts...
The day after I returned from El Salvador our nation commemorated the life and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. I was struck last week by the fact that so many people in our history as a people of faith and in our so called secular history have been murdered for speaking uncomfortable truths. Killed for standing up for the rights and dignity of the people around them... asking for conversion of hearts to love for all people.
Today the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul - one of those who once persecuted and murdered those who spoke uncomfortable truths. His conversion is a sign that hearts can indeed be converted. He was eventually killed as well.
"Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die it remains but a single grain with no life." That was the theme of the prayer service our community celebrated when I entered formation with the Marianist Sisters in 2005. I believe that I've come to a deeper understanding of this phrase in recent years. At the time of my entrance to the Sisters I understood it in its spiritual sense... in a Pauline sense... dying to one's ego and false self in order to rise as a person more Christ-like. While this is true, it is also true in a real, physical sense.
Sometimes speaking out for the rights and dignity of self and/or of others can result in death. It happens over and over in our world... People in power do not like being asked to change. Well, truth be told, a lot of people are not eager to change - be it behaviors, attitudes, routines, etc. I, personally, am not crazy about change at all. But, if people stopped speaking out... stopped standing up for truth, justice, peace... what a terrible world this would be. And conversion of hearts would be more difficult.
We are called to follow the examples set by those who lived in love, spoke the truth, and stood up for those who were oppressed. I think I have to recognize that sometimes that leads to unpopular opinions (and sometimes worse than that) of those who enjoy the status quo... First, I have to be converted... to love, to insight into injustice and to courage. Then, to follow the examples of those who have gone before us.
As we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul today, may we pray for continual conversion of hearts... that eventually justice and peace might flourish in our world.
Blessings to all who read this,