Why Catechesis is About Conversion, or It’s About Nothing At All

conversion landscape

Conversion–go beyond the mind that you have

Christian life is about conversion.

The National Directory for Catechesis says, “The Christian faith is, above all, conversion to Jesus Christ” (p. 48).

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth in Mark’s gospel are, “The kingdom of God is at hand, therefore, repent and believe the good news.”

This is the first thing he has to say. The kingdom of God is hand.

What would that mean to the people who heard him? Well, they all knew what a king was…and the kingdom is built up around him. The king sets the tone for the kingdom. He calls the shots.

If you come under the auspices of a new king, it means a new order, a new way of doing things. Now the Kingdom of God is here. God is in control.

So, what should you do? Repent! Convert!

What is conversion?

I love the way Fr. Robert Barron puts this in his video series Conversion. He says in the Gospel of Mark, the Greek word for repent is metanoiate. It can also mean convert, but there’s another meaning with a deeper significance.

It comes from two smaller words, “meta” and “nous,” which literally means “go beyond the mind that you have.”

The kingdom of God has arrived. God’s new order is ready to unfold. Don’t stay stuck in the sad realm of what came before. Sin rules there. Limitation rules there. Separation from the Infinite is the order there.

Instead, go beyond the attitudes and perspectives you’ve developed through your own thinking and open yourself to the larger possibilities now available through God.

Why don’t we convert?

What do we do instead? We stick to what we know. We’re afraid to trust in God. Afraid of what his expansiveness might require of us. It seems foreign and painful.

However, when you’re united with him, you’re united to “that power which is here and now creating the whole universe, and that links you in turn to everything and everybody else,” Fr. Barron says.

When you join yourself to the kingdom of God, he is now in control. The author of life is the Lord of your life. And he is working in you, creating in you, expanding you to fit him.

Catechesis is about conversion or it’s about nothing at all.

Changed by the working of grace–the aim of catechesis

Pope John Paul II said in Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis In Our Time):

“Catechesis aims therefore at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that the whole of a person’s humanity is impregnated by that word. Changed by the working of grace into a new creature, the Christian thus sets himself to follow Christ and learns more and more within the Church to think like Him, to judge like Him, to act in conformity with His commandments, and to hope as He invites us to.”

Catechesis seeks to develop an understanding of Christ’s saving work in us so that a person is impregnated by it. Once changed by  grace into “a new creature,” the person aligns himself with Christ. He thinks like him, acts like him, judges like him.

In other words, he “goes beyond the mind that he has” and puts on the mind of Christ. The expansive, creative, powerful mind of the Lord of the universe.

Catechetical takeaway

Catechesis is about conversion. The whole Christian life is about conversion. And, your job as a catechist is the make that happen.

Not the conversion part, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. You have to open your student’s minds and get them to consider that “beyond” of God. You have to develop that understanding of the mystery that will impregnate the Word into their souls.

Like it or not, facilitating conversion is the task of the catechist. Make this your mission and change the world.

Image courtesy of [Dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  1. Great New Evangelization post, and you didn’t even have to use the phrase!

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks Fred! I was thinking the same thing actually. I almost included something about that but didn’t want to go too long. I’m saving it for the next post. 😉

  2. Marc — the substance of new evangelization is what counts rather than the words. But I had to give you credit when you were doing it without the phrase!

  3. Great post! I’m fond of calling what you describe as “the beyond” of God, as the “more” of God. As in folks looking for something more… HE IS exactly what they are looking for, aching for, longing for.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      I like that–the “beyond” of God. I think you’re exactly right. He’s the more we’re all looking for but can’t find anywhere else. It also explains why the Church is so misunderstood. If you are only looking to the world and haven’t been expanded to the “beyond” by faith, you just can’t get what converted Christians are trying to say and do.

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