On January 25, the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul, a moment when he traded his sword of blood, for the sword of the Spirit. He had a radical change of heart, turning his life around to always keep God in his sights.
Jesus urged his own disciples to have this same conversion, saying to them, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The Greek word for “repent” is “metanoia,” and has a profound meaning behind it.
Pope St. Paul VI in his Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, called these words of Jesus “a compendium of the whole Christian life” and further related the gravity of Jesus’ choice of words.
“The kingdom of God announced by Christ can be entered only by a ‘change of heart’ (‘metanoia’) that is to say through that intimate and total change and renewal of the entire man—of all his opinions, judgments and decisions—which takes place in him in the light of the sanctity and charity of God, the sanctity and charity which were manifested to us in the Son and communicated fully.”
In other words, Jesus seeks a total conversion of heart and not an external conversion that is expressed in external signs. To be truly converted we must, as Pope Paul VI noted, have a “total change and renewal of the entire man—of all his opinions, judgments and decisions.”
Let us examine our own lives and consider how much our heart needs to change and which areas in our lives need to integrate a deeper application of the “Way of the Heart.”