Pope Saint John Paul II on the call to conversion

From Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio (Mission of the Redeemer), section 46:

The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith. Conversion is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens people’s hearts so that they can believe in Christ and “confess him” (cf. 1 Cor 12:3); of those who draw near to him through faith Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn 6:44).

From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from “life according to the flesh” to “life according to the Spirit” (cf. Rom 8:3-13). Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.

The Church calls all people to this conversion, following the example of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ by “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4), as well as the example of Christ himself, who “after John was arrested,…came into Galilee preaching the Gospel of God and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel'” (Mk 1:14-15).

Nowadays the call to conversion which missionaries address to non-Christians is put into question or passed over in silence. It is seen as an act of “proselytizing”; it is claimed that it is enough to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion, that it is enough to build communities capable of working for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. What is overlooked is that every person has the right to hear the “Good News” of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling. This lofty reality is expressed in the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God,” and in the unconscious but ardent desire of the woman: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst” (Jn 4:10, 15).

Do not put into question, pass over, or overlook the call to conversion. Call them to that faith “which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God’s gift.” A faith that is “a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith.” Call them to that. And know this: You too are called to conversion. This moment, and every moment henceforth, you are called to a total and radical following of Christ.

Of course, most of us are not proclaiming the word of God. Most of us are not seeking to bring the Gospel to the people we know, meet every day, work with, etc. I know I fail at this miserably. And I too am not living a total and radical faith.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Evangelism, Gospel

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