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On Conversion



The Return Of The Prodigal Son

In that same chapter as part of another parable, Jesus teaches that "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance." (Luke 15:7)

Jesus also gave the apostles a powerful example of the need for repentance, forgiveness, and conversion. Peter had denied Jesus three times, and after the resurrection Jesus gave Peter the opportunity three times to proclaim his love for Jesus again. (John 21:15-17) This man who had been the rock on which Jesus said he would build his Church had failed terribly, yet he responded to Jesus’ call to repent of his sin, to be forgiven, and to convert his life away from one of sin and fear to one of holiness and hope – and Peter became a great leader in the Church, the head of the apostles, the specific one whom Jesus told "feed my sheep."

One common use of the word conversion refers to people switching from one religion or denomination to another. While that common usage is a valid one, for the purposes of the Church conversion is an ongoing process for Christian believers. In our own lives as members of the Church, we are called to repentance and conversion repeatedly. By baptism the sin of Adam and Eve was washed away and we entered into a right relationship with God. Being weak and subject to temptation, we fall into sin again, and need continually to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness. In the mystery of conversion, it is the Lord himself who moves our hearts to feel sorry for sin. Our conscience helps us determine when our thoughts, words, or deeds have been contrary to God’s law of love, and our natural remorse leads us back to God.

The saints understand conversion the best of all. These holy men and women who become models of the Christian life for us were keenly aware in their lifetimes of their own need to repent every day, to subdue the sinful desires that temptation awakens within us, to convert every aspect of their lives, to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" again and again. Conversion, they understand, is not a once-and-for-ever proposition, but is necessary every day. By prayer, by sacrifice, by serving the poor and the least among us, all members of the Church are called to allow the mystery of conversion to draw us closer to God and to one another.

Like the loving father who welcomed back his wayward son, the Lord welcomes us with open arms, clothes us in a white garment free from the blemish of sin, and brings us into his banquet again. We who were lost are found. We who were dead are alive again. It is Jesus who accomplishes this within us, the same Jesus who said "Repent and believe in the gospel" two thousand years ago, and who says it to us every day of our lives, calling us to conversion and helping us achieve it.

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