Conversion Moment

What even is the whole point of Lent? Why do we take 40 days to prepare for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter? Why do we embrace penance and suffering during this season? As I prepared my high school youth a few weeks ago for this new liturgical season, these are questions I sought to answer – at least, with more than just the pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

After researching, reading and spending time in prayer, I was surprised by the answers myself. One answer that I felt fairly confident about comes from paragraph 540 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reads, “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” Jesus himself spent 40 days in the desert, fasting and enduring multiple temptations from Satan, so it only makes sense that we would enter into that mystery ourselves.

Then, the words of Ash Wednesday struck me: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Here is where the true challenge of Lent lies – why we choose to give something up for 40 days, why we seek out additional prayer opportunities and why we give alms. It’s all about conversion – conversion toward God and conversion toward others.

Conversion runs deep in today’s readings. In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear about what happens when one removes “oppression, false accusation and malicious speech” but also does good works of feeding the hungry and comforting the afflicted. Much is given to these people – the Lord will guide them and refresh them and more. I see quite a parallel to Easter here, where the joyous light of the Resurrection follows our time of conversion during Lent. We also see a reminder about keeping holy the Sabbath, which directly correlates to the conversion of God through prayer during Lent. When we honor the Lord through the Sabbath, through the celebration of Mass on Sunday, we delight in the Lord and He delights in us.

The tax collector Levi experienced a conversion himself in the Gospel reading. It began with a simple invitation from the Lord, “‘Follow me.’” The wealthy tax collector left everything behind to follow Jesus, which, of course, caused controversy among the scribes and Pharisees. When questioned why He spent so much time with tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus spoke of their great need for a Savior. “I have not called the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Lent has just started, brothers and sisters. Let us truly embrace this time of conversion and repentance as we turn away from sin and turn toward God.

Contact the author

Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Becoming a Beautiful Bride

Today’s short Gospel is a quick Q & A between the disciples of John and Jesus – one question, with a two-sentence answer. And yet, the answer gives us much to ponder.

The disciples of John want to know why Jesus’ followers do not follow the typical Jewish cycle of fasting. Jesus gives a somewhat cryptic answer: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The questioners must have been wondering what this meant.
First, by the “bridegroom,” Jesus is clearly referring to himself. For the listeners, this would have brought to mind the prophetic words of the Old Testament, in which the relationship between the Chosen People and God is often referred to as a betrothal. It is a way of revealing the kind of love that God has for His people: personal, passionate, faithful, and fruitful love, like a young fiancé for his beautiful bride. God’s love for us is deep and intense and steadfast!

But a “bridegroom” is a step beyond a “betrothed.” Jesus is expressing that the betrothal is ending and that – in him – the marriage is now imminent! God has come in Christ, and Jesus IS the bridegroom, come to wed his spouse, the Chosen People, the Church, by saving her from sin. This is why we refer to the Church as the “Bride of Christ.”

In ancient Israel, the guests – family and friends – spent the week-long wedding celebration sharing the joy of the new couple. Here we see Jesus declare himself the bridegroom, and his disciples are the “wedding guests,” invited to share his joy as he takes the Church as his bride. He wants all of his disciples throughout time (even you and me) to do the same! He longs for each of us to remain near him so that the overflowing joy of his Heart can flow into our lives as well until we are fully one with him in the Heavenly Kingdom.

One more thing: Notice Jesus does not say that the bridegroom will leave; he says that the bridegroom will be taken away. He is forcibly and violently removed, but he does not want to leave us alone! Before “the bridegroom is taken away,” he reveals a way he can remain with us always: at the Last Supper, he institutes the Eucharist.
Until the total fulfillment of the Kingdom is revealed, while we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior,” we fast and pray and grow in love in order to be more fully conformed to his image, just as his disciples did.

This Lent, let’s open ourselves fully to all that the Church suggests – praying, fasting, giving – so that we are of one heart and mind as we focus our attention on all that Christ, the Bridegroom, has given for us, his bride.

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is