Community of Conversion
Dear Confreres, brothers and sisters,
In these few minutes we shall reflect briefly on Constitutions 40, 41, 42, Community of Conversion, the 6th of the 8 articles of the II Chapter – The Apostolic Community. It would be very interesting to note that right from the beginning to the end, the word APOSTLE and APOSTOLIC appearing several times in our constitutions. We consistently observe how our constitutions describes ‘The purpose of the Missionary work’. Const. 11, calls us to take a deeper look into our missionary work, the ministry of reconciliation and the proclamation of the Gospel leading people to conversion and calls us ‘Apostles of Conversion’.
In my language there is a saying, that “you’ll never be able to dance in the public unless you’re able to dance in your room”, which simply means “private victory precedes public victory”. In a sense, unless there is a personal conversion and reconciliation and renewal of heart and mind our public ministry is just going to be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. So, while speaking about the mission and ministry, our constitutions logically calls us to focus on the renewal of our personal and community lives.
It is very interesting to notice, in the II chapter of our constitutions time and again we are encouraged to strengthen and grow in a good and healthy relationship with Christ and with each other. And the same is fostered through a constant and continual internal renewal (Const. 40). The aim of this internal renewal is to help us to grow in the likeness of Christ and being ready to follow the Redeemer in our mission.
Const. 41, clearly spells out that conversion is not a one-time event, but a continuous process, because we are in the process of becoming. The 2nd point of Const. 41 and Const. 42 gives us a clear direction and motivation for progressing in our renewal by means of daily examination of consciences, frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ascetic practises and mortification.
I would like to draw an analogy from one of the training drills from my days with the Cadet Corps. That is map reading. Well the cadet would be dropped off at an isolated location in the dark with the full army gear along with a map and a compass. The goal is to arrive at the designated destination within the specified time. Well, at strategic points one must continuously keep going back to the map in order to centre one’s coordinates to keep advancing in the right direction. The best lesson one would learn from this exercise is that even a minor error of 1° or ½° in aligning the compass with the map would lead the cadet a few kilometres away from the right destination. Well conversion and renewal of hearts and minds at a personal and community levels is like aligning and realigning ourselves in fidelity to the Redeemer. I would go on to say, that the map in our lives is the Word of God, and the compass through which we would interpret the map is our Constitutions and Statutes.
My reflection would be incomplete if I stop here without touching the core of Conversion from the point of view of our Constitutions. If we take a deeper look into Const. 42, one would not fail to notice that Conversion is not just spiritual exercise for the personal sanctification. The beauty and the uniqueness of our Constitutions is that it points us to something greater and more important, as to the purpose of conversion and that is to serve the mission. A conversion that has an inward and an outward movement.
The inward journey gives us the impetus to launch outwards and our outward mission in turn compels us to focus on our inward journey corresponding to our relationship with Christ and the Community. In Lk. 5:4, Jesus said to Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”. My friends if we are called as Apostles of Conversion, and if our Communities are ‘Apostolic Community of Conversion’, then the command of Jesus is nothing different from what he told Peter. For a fisherman to put out his net into deep, he first has to fold the net inwards and only then when he throws it outwards it would fall out into the deep for a catch. That is precisely the link between conversion and mission in our Constitutions.
I thank you and let us pray for each other, that we make a fruitful journey together, inwards to launch outwards. And may our mission challenge us grow intensely in our Communion with Christ personally and as a Community.
Author: Vincent Sanjay CSsR