Advent is a time of preparation. The word ‘advent’ means ‘coming’. Catholics are preparing for the coming of Christ. We recall and celebrate the first coming of Christ at his birth more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, AND we are also preparing for Christ’s Second and Final Coming at the End of Time. As we prepare, one important component of this is examining our relationship with God. Are we living how God is calling us to live? Are we imitaing Christ and being obedient to God? Do we encounter Christ daily in our lives? Are we experiencing a daily conversion to God?
Conversion is the act of turning towards God. Some experience conversion in that they turn from disbelief to belief. However, even Christians should experience conversion as this is not simply about believing in God. Conversion is a deep act within our soul and involves turning more and more towards God and away from our other worldy attachments. The Church often uses the word “metanoia” when discussing the concept of conversion. “Metanoia” is a Greek word that literally means to ‘turn around’ or ‘to change one’s mind’, and this involves a transformation. Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, explains:
“The Greek word for converting means: to rethink—to question one’s own and common way of living; to allow God to enter into the criteria of one’s life; to not merely judge according to the current opinions. Thereby, to convert means: not to live as all the others live, not do what all do, not feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same; begin to see one’s life through the eyes of God; thereby looking for the good, even if uncomfortable; not aiming at the judgment of the majority, of men, but on the justice of God—in other words: to look for a new style of life, a new life.”
This is an important concept during Advent. As we are preparing for Christ’s Coming we are to reflect on our lives and identify areas where we can draw even closer to Christ. We are to find where we are falling short of imitating Christ and His love. We are to call to mind all of our sins and repent as these can become obstacles to converting our hearts and minds more deeply. We are to recognize those areas in our lives where we have failed to love or to do the right thing. In our experience of “metanoia” we are to recocognize that we must always be transforming ourselves to move away from looking at our lives with the eyes of the world but rather seeing everything as God sees. It is God and His ways – not our ways – that are to always be our compass!