Thresholds of Conversion: Seeking and Discipleship

 Session 9


For discussion:

In your own faith:

  • Are you ready, spiritually, to acknowledge that certain leaders in your parish or diocese may not yet be disciples of Jesus?
  • Are you prepared to treat those persons graciously?  To let go of past hurts?  To respect them as they make their journey to discipleship?

Jean Vanier ( founder of L’Arche) once said,

“You can be right. You can be dead right and bring death to all those around you.”

 Many traditionalists believe that Church culture is the same as basic tenets of the faith. Challenging custom is synonymous with challenging the faith . Out of insecurity and an absence of a vibrant relationship to Jesus they become rigid, self-righteous.  However, every thinking, praying, honest spiritual person who seeks the Spirit of in their own heart, experiences a deep sense of fulfillment, deeper than the ritual. Rituals become an instrument, a means to an end which is union with God. Close-minded traditionalists are often afraid of the inner spiritual life and so they fall back on fulfilling the letter of the law, even if that law is simply tradition.

Jesus called this sort of believer a Pharisee. This religious spirit chains many believers; they focus on outer conformity to tradition. If we understand the difference between cultural tradition and basic tenets of the faith plus a relationship with God, our focus changes. All we want to do is allow God to love us and pass it on to those around us. Don’t jump to conclusions; I do believe that the Catholic Church is the fullest expression of revealed truth, that’s why I converted 38 years ago. However, I agree with Mother Theresa and Jean Vanier; we are called to love people where they are.

I might not cling to ritual, yet I do not discard this helpful instrument.  I might be “free in Christ”  yet if I notice that my behaviour upsets “weaker brethren”, I should refrain so I do not cause others to stumble (Melanie’s version of St. Paul). Fear, especially fear of the Living God, often freezes people into rigid patterns of behaviour. If we understand reasons behind irrational beliefs, it is possible to empathy’s with our accusers. In love we can make the right decisions. Sometimes we must gently speak the truth and sometimes we simply stay and love and forgive.

When we die we will all see clearly and realize that we really did not understand as much as we think we did anyway. St. Paul says we see through a mirror darkly. The most holy men realized that the closer they actually got to God, the less the really knew. They were the simple souls who looked at God and let Him gaze with love on them in return.

Our challenge is to love the Pharisee into the kingdom, into becoming a heart disciple. None of us knows a heck of a lot about God or what He really thinks yet He treats us with humour and kindness. The least we can do is extend that same kindness to others, especially those who we must forgive. Then we are invited to let go or our OWN self-righteous anger.

13 thoughts on “Thresholds of Conversion: Seeking and Discipleship

  1. You got me at “self-righteous anger.” That is what can boomerang our judgement calls and shine that mirror in on own face. Gentle encouragement, quiet example and most of all lots of intercessory prayers keep God in control and us at his feet as his humble servants whether we see them change or not.


  2. I understand your thoughtful points, Melanie. If I may, I refer to the book, “The Heresy of Formlessness” by Martin Mosebach. He is a German Catholic who wrote this book as a response to the once popular, contrived, man made liturgical innovations which he believed empty the Mass of its sense of sacredness. (I think liturgy adaptations have decreased somewhat, however, at least in my diocese). The Church has bigger fish to fry…..

    Anyway, in a nutshell, I think he would agree that liturgy and ritual should not be used a self-righteous fodder, but neither should we treat ritual casually. I agree. For example, like he says in the chapter, “Does Christianity need a Liturgy”?- “Through the eyes of the Evangelists, in spite of their classically laconic style, we see Jesus not only teaching, but also eating and drinking, feeling hunger, shuddering at the bitter gall offered to him, enjoying the perfume of the jar of ointment, receptive to the beauty of flowers, showing terrible anger and most of all saying NOTHING.”

    Conversions happened without a word- with gestures, touches, signs, silence, movements, blessings- rituals??? /Sorry this is so long, thanks for listening Melanie 🙂


    1. i agree- with you

      That is part of the reason I became a Catholic.. the smell of incense, sight of crucifix, sound of bells movement ritual are all infused with the spirit. It is when people are defensive and rigid because they only have ritual but not a living relationship that everything gets out of wack. Then ritual is the means and the be-all end all it is no longer a vehicle to communion with God


      1. it is, I highly recommend it! Of course some of his arguments will be controversial, but basically he explains how the Novus Ordo Mass is, from his standpoint anyway, a “jarring break from Tradition. 🙂


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