Have you heard about the second conversion? Many Catholics (and Christians from all streams for that matter) have not experienced what the Church calls the second conversion or the “conversion of the baptized.” This experience is explained below and is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is ultimately a dynamic “Divine Mercy” encounter with the Lord. It stems from a contrite heart and grace colliding in a symphony of mercy poured out on the sinner. It is the beginning of life as never experienced before if one “grows up” in their salvation. Maturing in Christ is fundamental to this new walk and greatly aids in one becoming a positive witness of the Gospel.
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”
– Benjamin Franklin
THE CONVERSION OF THE BAPTIZED
Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”16 In the Church’s preaching this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism17 that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life.
Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion
is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”18
This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.19
St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.20
The second conversion also has a communitarian
dimension, as is clear in the Lord’s call to a whole Church: “Repent!”21
St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, “there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.”22
St. Ambrose, ep. 41,12:PL 16,1116.
Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion
. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.23
Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus
(affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis
(repentance of heart).24
Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; Cf. Roman Catechism, II,V,4.
The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart.25
Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!”26
God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:27
Let us fix our eyes on Christ’s blood and understand how precious it is to his Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.28
St. Clement Of Rome, Ad Cor. 7,4:PG 1,224.