The word “conversion” usually brings to mind someone leaving one religious tradition and joining another, or perhaps joining a religious tradition for the first time. Often it is seen as a singular, perhaps even dramatic event. But the Hebrew-Christian scriptures present a different image.
In this understanding, conversion begins every time I become aware that something other than the love of God has taken the central place in my heart and life. This “something” need not be bad; in fact, it might be something very good: a job, a cause, a relationship, an activity. The giveaway that it has become too central is that I am not free to lessen its importance in my life. As good as it may be, it has enslaved me. When that awareness is accompanied by the grace of remorse, the process of conversion has begun – or begun again.
Yes, conversion is a process – not a single event. The Latin origins of the word reveal that it literally means, “to turn around.” The act of turning around only points me in a new direction; but I am still standing where I was before. Real conversion occurs as I begin, and then continue the journey of a new way of life and toward a new destination. The Christian life is just such a journey: repeatedly becoming aware of how I have strayed from the path of the Gospel, and thus my need to change direction, a little or a lot, and return to “the Way” (as the earliest Christians called it).
This post was written by my friend and “Itinerant Papist Preacher” Fr. J. Patrick Foley of Sacramento, California. For more about Father Foley visit his website at http://www.itinerantpapistpreacher.com.