January 26th, 2010 by Joseph Foster
Another chapter of Brett Favre’s legendary pro-football career came to a climactic end in Sunday’s NFC Championship when he threw an interception late in the game. Favre could have run for a chance to win, but chose to pass instead, across his body, and in doing so committed what a Fox Sports analyst later called the cardinal sin of pro-football, the same reckless throw that marked his storied 19-year career. Brett’s mistake might have cost his team the championship, and many games in his career. But the same mistake has also, in effect, driven the 40-year-old quarterback over the years to keep trying no matter how bad it gets, to bounce back, and to play with more than regrets.
While Favre is criticized for throwing more interceptions than any player in the history of the league, he is better known as the N.F.L. leader in touchdown passes, a three-time M.V.P., and one of the most successful quarterbacks in the game. It is no coincidence that the league leader in touchdowns and interceptions is the same player. This is because success is accompanied by mistakes. And the same is true in our Christian journey. With the right attitude, the taste of our mistakes motivates us to seek conversion from God.
Brett Favre played 16 seasons with The Green Bay Packers before joining the team’s division rival and longtime nemesis, The Minnesota Vikings. It was a change that required a sharp conversion from players and fans in Minnesota, and from Favre himself. A champion they once hated was now positioned at the helm of their offense. Brett was now working alongside a defense he once tried to destruct and deceive. But in just six months, Favre won over an entire state of enemies, and is now perhaps one of the most popular sports heroes in Minnesota history.
It is a similar conversion from one team to another, from zealous hatred to charitable love that makes The Conversion of St. Paul, that we celebrated liturgically yesterday, one of the most touching miracles in the history of the early church (The Daily Roman Missal) . And it is still happening today. As Christians, our daily conversion causes those around us to be changed by the face of God. And it happens because we are sinners who have the will to change and to be changed.
In every conversion there is a conversation with the Lord, a repentance that follows, and a reaffirmed belief in the gospel (Mk 1:15). Like St. Paul’s own conversion (Acts 9:1-22), each day, in small hidden ways, there is a blinding light that shines within us, and a small voice saying, why are you persecuting me?
And if we are looking for this light, we realize we are blinded and ask, Who are you?, knowing full well it is the Lord.
Jesus then reveals himself to us more fully and as a result we seek him in an entirely new way. We examine our conscience. We seek his forgiveness. And our newfound awareness of him motivates us to change in cooperation with his grace.
We take recourse to his will by asking, what shall I do?
And the Lord gives his answer, saying go into the whole world, and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mk16:15). He calls us to action, reinvesting in us his mission. He asks us to respond to love more deeply and with firm resolution. He desires more than what we are already doing. He wants us to rest in him, and always he asks us to change.
Like a single player elevating his teammate’s level of performance, those around us take notice of this change. They see a light at work in and through our lives, and gradually seek it themselves. They learn with us who God really is. Our conversion becomes their own, and this is how conversion and evangelization become one, right where we are, in every corner of the world.
In the words of St. Josemaría Escrivá, a modern master of conversion and champion of the new evangelization: For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace (you) will reach the end of the road, which is Love. If you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then with God’s help you will conquer. There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome." (The Forge, 344)
Football commentators use the term "conversion" to describe the act of converting a particular goal into reality. The kicker converts a field goal attempt into 3 points. The halfback converts a running attempt into gained yardage, a new set of downs, or points. As Catholics, we have the choice each day to realize a similar conversion, that of our race, sacramentally, in and through The Body we receive at Mass. It is a conversion that happens one soul at a time, in and through our own body, by making visible the invisible reality of God. (John Paul II, Theology of the Body). If we are to win, this conversion does not happen once or twice, but entirely throughout the game. Conversion is our way of life. We need many small, continuous conversions to undergo the great conversion into sons and daughters of God.