I am sure most people reading this will remember the Red Rose restaurant in Lewis's. It was on the top floor and had waitresses and white table cloths. We never had very much money but I remember as a child being taken there for lunch around my birthday, which was certainly very grand to me.
One day Mum and I were there. When I had finished eating, I looked at Mum and noticed she didn't have her ring on. I asked where it was and she said, "Oh, I must have left it at home". It was years later when I was an adult that she told me that every time we went to the Red Rose she had to pawn Nana's ring in order to pay for it. I remember tears filled my eyes and I told her she didn't have to do that for me – she looked at me and smiled and said, "But I love you".
When I think back to my childhood, I am very much aware that I was brought up by someone who had surrendered herself to God because, while she liked nice things, Mum was never controlled by them and would give anything away for the sake of my brother and myself. We saw that surrender in the pawning of a ring for the sake of a birthday treat or in the care for her mother before she died. I saw it in the countless deeds of selflessness that made up Mum's life and also as she worshipped and prayed and read the Scriptures and then in turn loved others.
How many of us are really living surrendered lives? We might be saying our prayers and going to church. We might even be very involved in the life of our parish community but is that real surrender? Surrender demands that we face the false gods in our lives – worry, fear, anxiety and pain, money, possessions, our good name, our place in society.
One of the major themes in Luke’s Gospel is that of faith and belief. Luke calls us constantly to a radical, life-changing belief in God, a faith that invites us to let go of our false gods. Luke calls us to surrender to God and to know that without God we are nothing. I think this is what conversion is all about. It has little to do with moving from one set of cerebral beliefs to another. Conversion is that deep movement within, the letting go of that which is deceptive – and yet so alluring because it makes us feel so good – to a place of surrender to God. It is something we are all called to every day, and it leads us to holiness where we know God is enough.