Why did so many people have a conversion experience at the preaching of St. John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles?
St. Paul gives us one answer in stating when God created us, God planted the virtue of temperance within us. Temperance is often seen as self-control. Its deeper meaning translates: “God put order in us.” When our life is in order, heartfelt progress follows.
What best generates this happiness? Ironically, it is the workings of repentance.
St. John Paul II stated in the apostolic exhortation “Reconciliation and Penance,” “If we link penance with metanoia … it means the inmost change of heart under the influence of the word of God and in the perspective of the kingdom. But penance also means changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart. …
“Doing penance is something authentic and effective only if it is translated into deeds and acts of penance. In this sense penance means … asceticism, that is to say, the concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s (grace), to lose his or her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new.”
Whenever conversion occurs, it is often because we are looking for a happier life; worldly wisdom has left our hearts empty. Behind our pursuit of happiness is a desire to move on from a stagnant life lacking the spirit of ascetism that energizes God’s order within us.
Much of today’s life lacks order. Often those looking to restore it point to outside resources like more funding, manpower and creativity. No doubt this helps, but unless the heart is in the right place, much goes for naught because the order we pursue is not out there but within us.
The greatest human progress is made when men and women have a change of heart and die to self in order to make our world better. True happiness and desired progress ultimately depend on responding to God’s order within us that prompts to “put off the old man and put on the new.”
Ultimately, metanoia — conversion — and responding to God’s order within us is our best remedy for true progress.
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