Come Home Everyday: The Importance of Conversion
- Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart
It is great news that God has forgiven us, however, more is required from us in order to receive the forgiveness. God will not trump our own will, something else is required. We must repent and convert from our old life in order to take on the new. This idea of conversion is usually described with the Greek word metanoia, which is a radical reorientation of the whole life away from sin and evil and toward God. Conversion is radical. The word ‘radical’ comes from a Greek word radix which means ‘root.’ This act goes to the deepest part of the person, the foundation; it is drastic. A true reorientation is the act of changing the direction of one’s orientation, which is a tendency of thought; a general inclination. This directional change must be of the whole life; a conversion can not just be parts of the person. An attitude that thinks; ‘I will change my life at home but not at work,’ ‘I will change my girlfriend but not my friends,’ or ‘I will change my prayer habits but not my TV habits’ just will not work for a true conversion. Finally, conversion is a turning away from sin and evil and toward God; this is the directional change that is taking place.
A conversion is the real fruit of encountering God’s mercy. Pope John Paul II describes this encounter as explained in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and of the presence of mercy in the human world. The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man” (Dives in Misericordia, 6). While some of us may have experienced a conversion as described in the story of the Prodigal Son, a conversion that moves us from one country to another, many of us never have visited that ‘far off country.’ Even then, there is need of conversion, for conversion is not just a one time event but a life long process, as St. Josemaria Escriva said, “To reform. Every day a little. This has to be your constant task if you really want to become a saint” (The Way, 290). Everyday we should make the promise to be more faithful to our baptismal vows then we were the day before, and to promise to love God more than we did yesterday.
The normal place to encounter God’s mercy in a very concrete and practical manner is in the Sacrament of Confession, “It is the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation that prepares the way for each individual, even those weighed down with great faults. In this sacrament each person can experience mercy in a unique way, that is, the love which is more powerful than sin” (Dives in Misericordia, 13). We would highly suggest for someone who is not in a frequent rhythm of going to Confession to start going at least once a month. Along with frequent Confession, begin to do an examination of conscience everyday perhaps before going to bed. By doing a regular examination of conscience we will know what needs to go to the Confessional. Remember that not only are our sins forgiven in Confession but we are also given the strength to get out of our sins and avoid those temptations in the future.
By constantly hearing the words of Christ through His mouthpiece which is the priest, “I forgive you of all your sins,” we will also be aware of our need of continual conversion. By hearing how many times God forgives us it should also become easier to forgive others as they offend us, but we will take up the conversation later. We have stated we must discover God’s mercy and thus we must repent and convert, but John Paul describes that there is a process of ‘rediscovery;’ “the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy, that is, in discovering that love which is patient and kind as only the Creator and Father can be…Conversion to God is always the fruit of the rediscovery of this Father, who is rich in mercy” (Dives in Misericordia, 13). Oh, what a WEALTHY Father we have!