It’s one thing to dabble with a piano, but it’s another thing to play it like a virtuoso. Similarly, it’s one thing to go to an occasional wine tasting, but it’s another to be a wine connoisseur.
The same is true when it comes to our walk with Jesus. It’s one thing to know the gospel message, the Ten Commandments, or the place of Mary in the Church, but it’s another thing to be a saint—or even just “to live in a manner worthy of the Lord . . . fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). This distinction gets at the heart of the Church’s teaching on conversion.
We can define “conversion” as a decision to turn away from sin and to turn toward Jesus. The Greek word used in the Bible for “conversion” is metanoia. Literally, we might say the word means “after” (meta) “mind” (noia)—or a new way of thinking. This month, we want to talk about three stories of conversion from the Bible: the story of Lydia, the story of Cornelius, and the story of Peter the apostle. The first two stories are about “initial conversion,” that time when Jesus touches a person and moves them to change.
The last story is about “ongoing conversion.” I love St. Peter because he was constantly challenged to change the way he thought. Over and over again, even at the Last Supper, we find Peter telling Jesus about all the heroic things he wants to do. We also find him trying to tell Jesus what to do. But over time, he changed and became more humble and more open to what God wanted him to do. St. Paul was no different. As talented and prayerful as he was, he was still wrong to get into an argument with his fellow apostle Barnabas, and he was wrong to rebuke Peter in a very public setting (Acts 15:36-41; Galatians 2:11-14).
Keep Moving Forward. I so admire Peter and Paul because I am like them—at least when it comes to their missteps! I like to tell Jesus what he should do with my life. And all too often, I am the cause of disagreements and arguments. But the good news is that I can continue and deepen my conversion. I can apologize, go to Confession, and experience Jesus telling me, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).
We won’t be fully converted to Jesus until we are with him in heaven. Sin is still a powerful force, both in the world and in our own hearts. We may graduate from high school or college, but we will never graduate from the “School of Christ.” It’s a good thing that the teacher, the Holy Spirit, is eager to teach us every day and help us put our “lessons” into practice.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories of conversion. I hope they inspire you to keep moving forward in your walk with Jesus so that you can be more fully converted to him every day. May God bless you.