|We meet John the Baptist at the beginning of the Gospels, an austere and intriguing character inviting people to change their ways. John was what we might call a fellow who ‘said it like it was’. He was not afraid to call out those around him – especially the religious leaders! – and challenge them to a different worldview and new way of living. John called his contemporaries to conversion.
The word ‘conversion’ means a change in form or character or function. Often, when talking about conversion, we use the Greek word ‘metanoia’. Metanoia is ‘a transformative change of heart’. It suggests a change of mind. John the Baptist, and Jesus after him, invite us to conversion or metanoia. They invite us to see ourselves differently and in so doing change the way that we speak and act.
This week we remember and celebrate someone who took up the invitation to conversion: St Ignatius Loyola. The feisty young competitive Ignatius imagined a life of chivalry, power and success. Some say he was a bit of a rogue or rebellious. When a cannonball struck his leg, and he was unable to go about doing what he loved, he began to hear the invitation of God to conversion. At first, he wasn’t sure what was going on. But slowly, God invited him to see himself differently and in so doing change the way he lived. Ignatius gave up his dreams, accepted the invitation, and left the Christian Church a great gift – his Spiritual Exercises. He also founded the Society of Jesus.
Ignatius, like John the Baptist, answered God’s invitation to conversion. They, in response to God’s love, chose to embark upon a journey that offered them a new worldview and called them to a new way of living. They let go of what they wanted, to embrace what God wanted. John, the cousin of Jesus, lives an austere life in the Judean desert, inviting people to “Change your ways”. He heralds Jesus’ coming. St Ignatius gives up his pursuit of chivalry, power and worldly success to answer God’s call and show his contemporaries that there is another way of living, the way of the Kingdom of God.
Where is God calling you to conversion? Perhaps in one area of your life? Maybe to embrace a new worldview, convert to God’s vision, of yourself and the world? What do you need to leave?