Repent And Convert! Consumer Christianity Cannot Save You!

Christ1A2By, Msgr. Charles Pope,

Too many Catholics are uncomfortable using the biblical and traditional words, “Repent,” convert and conversion. To repent means to change your mind and come to a new way of living. To convert means to turn from sinful ways or erroneous teaching.

But too many Catholics, including priests are uncomfortable using words like this. We used to speak of convert classes etc. But now many prefer abstract descriptions like, “Inquiry Classes” or the even more abstract “RCIA”

Many draw back lest they seem to suggest that others are wrong, “going wrong,” need to change, or, heaven forfend, “sinful.”  Words like repent and convert more than suggest that there is right and wrong, true and false, sanctity and sinfulness, good and evil.

But the fact is, many, including us, need on-going conversion And a good number need outright conversion And a complete change of mind, heart and behavior.

Of course repentance and the call to conversion are a key biblical summons. repentance is not suggested, it is commanded, and without it we will not see the kingdom of God.

Perhaps a central reason for the embarrassment many feel at the call to repentance and conversion is that it runs a foul of a kind of  “consumer Christianity” wherein faith is reduced to using God’s grace to access blessings but not to give one’s life over to Jesus Christ in love and obedience. Consumer Christianity targets “seekers” looking for enrichment rather than disciples. The heart of discipleship is, as Jesus says, is to “Deny yourself, take up your Cross, and follow me.”

But when faith is reduced to personal enrichment, true discipleship seems obnoxious and words like repentance, conversion,  and concepts like self denial, and the cross are non-starters and rejected as negative, judgemental, and, to use consumer language, is bad marketing.

To be sure, the faith does enrich and words like repentance and conversion need not be accompanied with sour faces or with no reference to the joy of salvation. We need not act like the wild-eyed sidewalk evangelists screaming repent only as a tactic of cringing fear.

But as to the avoidance of any fear at all and the words repent and convert, nothing could be more unChrist-like, for Jesus led with the summons to repent. It was in the very opening words of his public ministry: He said, “The time is now! The kingdom of God is near! Repent, and  believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

And why does Jesus lead with this? Because the joy and enrichment of salvation cannot be accessed except through repentance and conversion. Eternal Life cannot be accessed except through turning our back on this world and dying to it. Easter Sunday is accessed only through Good Friday.

Consumer Christianity cannot save. Repentance and conversion, even if not popular in marketing focus groups of “seeker-sensitive” mega-churches, must be recovered in the call and vocabulary of the Church. Watering down the very thing Jesus led with is no way to make true disciples.

Repent and be converted that the Gospel may fill you.

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1 comment to Repent And Convert! Consumer Christianity Cannot Save You!

  • Loretta Hoffman

    Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I agree completely with you in this article re: repentance and conversion has to be experienced first before one can be enriched, exuberant and joyful as a result of surrendering one’s entire life to God in obedience to Him. I also believe that repentance and conversion is an ongoing process which brings peace and joy to one’s soul. A good priest in the confessional,or pulpit, can really help people in overcoming sin and in eventually growing out of that sin, while continuing their growth as a new person in Christ. Thanks be to God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation which can be a powerful spiritual tool to aid this spiritual growth and empowerment as a ChristianI have personally discovered Christ in a different way than I did as a child. Good preaching can also help to bring about one’s growth as well as spiritual renewal programs like “Life in the Spirit/Growth in the Spirit Seminars, the “Unbound” program, etc. Good spiritual writers, trained in apologetics can be very helpful, too. I have found that many Catholics have not yet discovered who Christ is for them. They know a lot about Him, but don’t know Him personally or realize how valuable it is to spend time with Him in prayer and discernment. Please continue to preach Christ crucified for us while we are still in sin and bring Catholics to a deeper appreciation of what our sins do to Him and what His sacrifice did for us. Call us to repentance and spiritual renewal frequently. As St. John Paul II said often: “Be Not Afraid!” As long as priests will speak the truth to people, the truth will set us free! The people, in general, also need excellent catechesis because many don’t seem to know what they believe or why and many do not have a personal relationship with Jesus or trust in Him. They also do not know the “Power of Praise/Thanksgiving” in their daily struggles which all of us have. We need to learn how to live victoriously over Satan and his temptations to sin. As the Scripture says somewhere: “My people suffer and perish for lack of knowledge.” We do need a lot of evangelization from priests, deacons and laity alike who are “spirit-filled” themselves and are excellent witness to a life of faith in the midst of personal and/or societal difficulties and who have the courage to take steps in faith in speaking the truth themselves about life issues of our day. I encourage you to continue to write and speak like you have in this article and please make it easy for us to print and email your articles to others. I myself do not “Tweak” or do “Facebook,” etc. Please have a place on this page where we can easily save or forward articles to others. Many thanks. I praise and thank God for priests and writers like yourself. May God continue to bless you. Sincerely in Christ, Loretta Hoffman P.S. I hope that you are educating future priests and that you are also addressing the need for repentance and conversion to men who seem to be more interested in sports and entertainment than in learning how to be better Catholic/Christians, especially as husbands, fathers, grandfathers. The wives and kids need this witness from the men in their lives.

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