Sister Brenda Rose Szegedy, OSF
As Sylvania Franciscans, the season of Lent offers a graced opportunity to reflect on our Gospel call to ongoing conversion. God speaks to us through the words of the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”
I would like to revisit with you a conversion of heart moment in my life that continues to speak to me today. A number of years ago when I was ministering at a retreat center in southern FL, a retreatant whom I will call Sue, came to my office one afternoon with urgency in her voice. “Please come with me,” she said, “I have something to show you!” I followed Sue outdoors already figuring out in my mind what she wanted to point out to me… perhaps a lovely hibiscus plant in full bloom or possibly the sight of a lone ripe grapefruit left on a tree or an exotic colorful bird that made its appearance near the intra-coastal waterway. To my amazement it was none of these. Instead Sue led me toward the side door entrance of the retreat house, the side of the building I passed daily as I came to and from the side entryway… and there we were standing in front of a drab concrete wall. Sue noticed the quizzical look on my face which was in direct contrast to her eager anticipation. Then she said, “Look up!” Her finger pointed upward to a crack in the wall!” And there it was, a lush green leafy stem growing in all its glory through a crack in a concrete wall! As we both gazed at the wonder of greening new life before us, Sue blurted out with a deep inner conviction, “If God can do that, then I know that God can come through the hardened places in my own heart! “There’s hope for me,” she said. We stood in momentary silence as her words continued to echo within me. I then gave Sue a big hug thanking her for inviting me to experience this amazing graced moment in her retreat.
Without a doubt I knew why God sent this woman into my life that day… to open my eyes to the hardened places in my own heart and to recognize that only God’s Love can break through the concrete walls I had erected… walls that would often keep out a particular person I usually avoided in my life. The very person I went out of my way to avoid, God kept sending back into my life. Gradually I came to see that this person was sent for my own conversion, to take me out of my narrow limited way of seeing. In God’s Light, I began to see beyond her surface behavior to the deep down goodness within her, and affirm that goodness whenever I noticed her extending kindness to someone. Years later I received a note in the mail from the one I once avoided. “Thank you,” she said, for helping me learn how to love myself.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered God’s amazing lesson the day I stood with Sue gazing in wonder at the new life emerging from a crack in a concrete wall. Yes, it is God’s Love that changes our hearts; it is God’s Love that opens our hearts to see with eyes of compassion; it is God’s Love that brings new life even in the most unlikely places. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ez 36:26)