Called to a deeper conversion
Conversion is not a normal, everyday Catholic word. We have in the past often talked about converts as people who feel drawn to join the Catholic Church, but we have rarely applied the word conversion to ourselves. Most of us were baptised as babies, and all we have ever known is being Catholic. We do not normally see ourselves as in need of conversion.
Yet every time we acknowledge we have sinned, we see that we are in need of repentance and we hope our openness to God will help us become more holy. Every time we say we are not worthy, we hope and pray that we can become more worthy as time goes on. Each Mass, each Eucharist, we say words that recognise that we are in need of a deeper conversion.
So while conversion is not an everyday word for Catholics, it describes the most fundamental attitude we are called to have as Christians. We are called to have an ongoing openness to God and to grow in our awareness of God and God’s creation.
Our openness to God deepens our awareness of God’s will for us, and for all creation, and we are invited to change so that we respond in a way that reflects God’s will. Because of this, conversion is never a once and for all event but an ongoing lifelong journey. Each day, each moment, we are invited to deeper conversion.
Conversion is more than just a change of mind. It is about the direction we walk, the path we take in life. Our Christian call is to be continually open to God and God’s will for us. Our growing openness to God is what the Christian life is about. We learn about God through the words of Jesus, the experiences of the early church, the insights of the writers and prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, and through the Holy Spirit at work in the Church and the world today. Our task is to be open, to learn and to walk towards God, for it is God who will change us.
Conversion is always an act of God, and so we are called to place ourselves in contexts that will make this more likely. We grew up knowing that prayer and works of love and charity are such contexts. Yet over the last century or so, we have recovered from scripture that contexts where we work for justice and seek to protect God’s creation are also contexts that open us to God and make an ever deeper conversion more possible.
Pope John Paul II first talked about our need for an ecological conversion. Pope Francis took this a step further by helping us see that an ecological conversion also requires a conversion structuring our economic relationships. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis says that everything is interconnected and uses the term integral ecology to describe this. We cannot protect God’s creation without being committed to the common good and seeking to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Our current economic structures do not support this and therefore we need an economic conversion so that our economic relationships no longer contribute to the destruction of creation or of human community.
In this year’s Social Justice Statement, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, our Australian Catholic Bishops draw on Pope Francis and talk of this holistic conversion. They see that we need to experience a conversion where we seek a new understanding of the universe and of our human role within God’s creation. We need a new commitment to community and to live more humbly and sustainably for the sake of God and what God has created.
Part of this deeper conversion is moving beyond simply believing in God and choosing to work with God to achieve God’s mission.
Dr David Tutty
Executive Officer Social Justice Commission Toowoomba Catholic Diocese
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First Published in Horizon's magazine - Advent, December 2022