We have to be wary of the conditions nowadays that would tend to desensitize us from our constant need for penance and conversion. This, I believe, is the message Christ wanted to impart to us when he said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (Lk 10,13)
We cannot deny that there now are many elements that would lead us to be self-absorbed and self-centered, to be just concerned about the here and now and forget about the hereafter, to be stuck with the material and temporal and ignore the spiritual and eternal. Even worse, there are now moves toward outright irreligiosity, directly contradicting God’s laws by legalizing immoral actions like abortion, etc.
We need to have a drastic revival of our spirit of penance and conversion. Our spirit of penance and conversion is in crisis nowadays because our idea of what is good and evil is now reduced to our personal preferences, or at best to what can be termed as our social, political, cultural or even ideological consensus.
In short, we are not anymore referring things to God but to ourselves. This is what is called the post-modern thinking which views “realities as plural and subjective and dependent on the individual’s worldview.”
It proclaims that there can be diverse interpretations of truth. It rejects sharp distinctions and global, absolute and universal truths. It sees truth as highly individualistic and subjective, as absolutely bound by culture, time, place and all sorts of conditionings.
We need to go back to God by first acknowledging our sinfulness. That we are all sinners and in need of conversion should come as no surprise to us. We just have to be realistic in handling this lifetime predicament of ours, making use of all the means that, thanks to God, have also been made available in abundance.
There’s confession, for one, and the Holy Eucharist, spiritual direction, regular examinations of conscience, indulgences, etc.
There’s just one interesting thing that, I believe, is worth bringing up at this point in time. And that is that conversion should not just be a matter of a moment, but should rather be a stable state of mind and heart.
St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Dives in misericordia” (Rich in mercy), has some relevant words about this point. “Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love,” the saintly Pope said, “is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion, not only as a momentary interior act but also as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.”
He continues: “Those who come to know God in this way, who ‘see’ Him in this way, can live only in a state of being continually converted to Him. They live, therefore in ‘status conversionis;’ and it is this state of conversion which marks out the most profound element of the pilgrimage of every man and woman on earth in ‘status viatoris.’” (13)
It would be good to go slowly on these words if only to feel at home with this wonderful truth of divine mercy as well as our lifetime need for it. Let’s hope and pray that we can manage to conform our attitudes and core beliefs along these lines expressed by St. John Paul.*