Conversion is a grace. And like many graces, it’s effects often become apparent over time, rather than instantaneously.
The conversion of Saint Paul, which the Church celebrates today, is an exception to this general rule, and there are other similar exceptions, such as the instantaneous conversion of the Jewish man Alphonse Ratisbonne; on these occasions, and for very particular reasons desired by the Lord, that grace of conversion brings about a change from one moment to the next.
But for most of us, conversion is a process rather than an event.
Interior conversion is a very good grace to pray for, asking the Lord that He might grant it to us. After all, who does not need to be constantly and ever more deeply converted? Who can say with honesty that their conversion is complete? Who is already so perfect in the spiritual life that interior conversion is no longer necessary? Probably very few of us.
The message of Divine Mercy is, itself, a message of conversion – of our need for it, and also a promise of what it can bring about within us and around us.
The words recorded here from the Diary of Saint Faustina are a reminder to us that whilst we pray for this grace of interior conversion, the work of conversion has, in fact, already begun; it begins when the Lord makes the first approach to us. Our response to this initial movement on His part is the first fruit of that on-going conversion. He promises us His grace and His mercy throughout the process, such that He is our strength in every moment. And all of this is a work of His great mercy toward us.
There is one other point to note on the subject of conversion.
In our polarised world, where we tend to see things only in black and white, we often reject others for one reason or another, failing to perceive the shades of grey. The message of Divine Mercy – and the lesson from the conversion of Saint Paul – is that no-one is beyond the grace of God, not even the greatest sinner. After all, if the Lord can effect true, deep and lasting conversion in one whose life was spent in persecution of the Lord and His Church, then He can work similar miracles in all of us.
May the Lord, Who is Mercy itself, grant each of us the grace of interior conversion according to the extent that we have need of it.