The call to conversion is one of the most important themes found in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the prophets constantly called Israel to turn from infidelity and immorality and return to God. John the Baptist preached repentance as he prepared Israel for the coming of the Messiah. Conversion held a prominent place in Our Lord’s preaching as well. From the very beginning of his ministry, he called out: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). Repentance and conversion go hand-in-hand.
The essence of conversion is found in the Greek word metanoia. Literally translated as a change of mind, metanoia signifies a radical turning around of one’s life. When it is used in the New Testament, the turning means a return to God. Someone who experiences this radical turning around is transformed from their sinful self, and the fruits of his or her transformation manifest themselves in a fundamental change in their desires and in the way that person thinks and acts. When we think about conversion, the story of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus comes to mind, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Conversion isn’t limited to something that happens in a single moment; rather it’s an ongoing process that takes place during the course of our lives. It’s a continual process of saying no to sin and temptation and striving for holiness as Our Lord’s disciples.
And yet conversion is not something we do; the Holy Spirit leads us to conversion. He is the one who pricks our conscience or gives us a sense of God’s love so that we will turn to him in a new way. He is the one who moves us to love our neighbours, care for those in need, and carry the good news to the people with whom we share our lives. In a sense, you could say that conversion is the Christian life. And so today, let us all repent, and turn to God.