The Church is in need of conversion right now. I mean every Catholic needs to go through a process of changing their mind and heart. This even includes Catholics who attend Mass every week. Every Catholic needs to experience some conversion over some issue within the deposit of faith, and going through this process serves as a model to every other Catholic in our parishes.
In todays’ Church, many Catholics express open disagreement with the Church on issues having to do with sexual morality as well as hot-button political topics like immigration. I once preached a homily trying to explain immigration only to hear a parishioner complain about “Illegals” later that day at a different event. I’ve also heard parishioners dismiss Church teaching on sexuality and the sanctity of life as being unimportant. Both situations cause me to be concerned.
Before I get into the meat of this, I want you to reflect on how this effects the community. In your mind immigration, for example, might be a relatively small thing and it’s no big deal to express disagreement with the Church. Well, when you express disagreement on that issue or when you dismiss it as unimportant, you contribute to a culture where people dismiss other issues that you find very important. This causes division, and God does not like division.
So, again, what we need in the Church right now is conversion. I don’t want people to simply accept all the difficult things our Church proposes, but to reflect deeply on these difficult things until they believe it in their heart. If we all walk the path of conversion on the issues we struggle with, we can encourage others to walk the same path.
I’ll tell you an experience I had with conversion while I was in seminary. Obviously, I was already quite devout, but I still experienced a great deal of conversion. One particular issue was the Death Penalty. To be clear, I didn’t necessarily disagree with the Church on this issue or oppose it. I didn’t see why it was a big deal. After all, these criminals on death row caused horrific pain in people’s lives and they cost tax payers lots of money that could be given to “more deserving people.” So I was really just apathetic over the whole thing. I didn’t care.
But I kept hearing our bishops and even our Popes speak about how the death penalty needs to be opposed and I finally decided I would examine the issue prayerfully. I started reading Church documents on the issue. I started reading testimonies of people who were enthusiastic in their opposition of the death penalty and why they opposed it. I tried to look at it from other angles I previously hadn’t considered. I asked God to help me see it the way he saw it.
Perhaps the biggest insight I came up with was how this issue related to innocent life. Now, I’ve always been passionate about the sanctity of life we might consider innocent. Well, in considering this issue, I started to think, if every American was really and truly and fully dedicated to protecting the right to life of a guilty murderer, then how much more would our culture be truly committed to protecting the right to innocent life? I started to see that standing up for the right of a guilty person to live was actually protecting innocent life as well. That’s not the only insight I gained, but it is a big one.
This was more than changing my mind on a single issue. It changed the way I saw lots of things. I don’t just believe the Church’s opposition to the death penalty is important. I feel that it is important in my bones. I’d like to encourage you to undergo a process like I did for a moral issue or doctrinal issue you might struggle with. Perhaps it’s the issue of immigration. Perhaps it’s the issue of artificial contraception or abortion. Perhaps it’s a doctrinal teaching like the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or the need for confession. Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to go through this process of conversion like I did. Open your mind and heart. If you need help getting started on any particular issue, I’m glad to point you in the right direction. I’ve walked the path of conversion and I know it is scary, but I also know it is very rewarding.