What is the ultimate rebirth and how can we help others' rebirth?

Thoughts about conversion
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1. Our self-made paths to rebirth. Psychology has diagnosed a number of life phases that can be characterized by fast transformations. They all offer occasions of rebirth. However, we should note that there is no inexhaustible energy behind these honorable efforts. So our rebirth (either self-made or helped by others) remains hopelessly bound to Earth. (If you would like to read more about this, please read my essay here.)

 

2. The touch of Totality as the start of ultimate rebirth. Thoughts about conversion. The Totality of rebirth requires the touch of God, the acceptance and experience of love of Jesus that transforms our whole lives. This is that inexhaustible energy that provides strength for everything. Conversion is the maximum satisfaction of the most comprehensive sense of mankind's loss and deprivation. Conversion is experiencing the infinity, permanency and faithful love of God. The essence of conversion is not a unique experience but a process of immersing in humility and emptying our own egos, in which man becomes the property of God. Many conversions remain only virtual. Gospels show beautiful examples what are the essential characteristics of conversion and how many different ways it may happen. The protagonist of conversion is God (and not the converted person). That is why conversion is not a matter of will. Conversion is by far not a "free ticket" to eternal life.  That is why the word "daily" in the daily conversion of Martin Luther becomes extremely important. There is no justification without conversion. At the same time conversion is not the "result", not the "end" of mercy providing justification, but the path itself going there. (If you would like to read more about this, please read my essay here.)

 

3. How can we help others' rebirth? The reborn man is charged with new and new energy continuously by his strengthening contact with God. He must pass this energy to other people. The preacher has to see people in the same way as God does: from inside. A man spreading the Gospel helps a love-bridge be built between Jesus and the other person. So he is never allowed to build a wall between himself and the other person but he shares the inexhaustible love of Totality with others. He does not speak "from inside" to outside but with enormous humility he recognizes as the image of Christ becomes visible in the other person, and he makes the other person to notice this in himself.

 

„watching it from the viewpoint of resurrection we may understand
that placing the body into the grave, it is not a cold depth of a hole for us any more,
but the image of Christ’s opened side,
a meeting of our fragile humanity with the endless love.
Because the grave has become the gate of Paradise since Christ was lying there.”

(Peregrin Kálmán OFM)

 

(If you would like to read more about this, read my essay here on Reformation Day, October 31st, All Saint's Day, November 1st and All Souls' Day, November 2nd.)

 


 

Introduction. This essay is the continuation of the previous essay-trilogy on gratitude, life service of love and loving networks. It is published on Reformation Day, 31st October but it is also written to the 1st November, All Saints’ Day, and the 2nd of November All Souls' Day. That’s why its topics are conversion, salvation and rebirth.

 

1. Our self-made paths to rebirth
 

"For death takes away everything visible
and separates us from men ...
hence, to meet death, we must have the help
of the invisible and eternal things”

(Martin Luther: A treatise concerning the blessed sacrament
of the holy and the true body of Christ, 1519)

 

Psychology has diagnosed a number of life phases that can be characterized by fast transformations: rebellious phase, early adolescence, adolescence, quarter-life panic, midlife crisis, elderly depression, etc. They all could be considered as crises, but in fact all these life phases offer occasions of rebirth. If I accept that every new life situation is a gift and I understand the joy of path finding emotionally, then I can enjoy the "flow experience" as defined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. What can lead me to enjoy the "flow"? According to currently fashionable answers, adventurous life, meditation or psychological support may all help us re-interpret our lives’ crises as our lives’ rebirths. These very useful pieces of advice help a lot indeed. However, these noble approaches remind me to a "Baron Munchausen experiment", in which we would like to pull ourselves (or each other) out from trouble. However, we should note that there is no inexhaustible energy behind these honorable efforts. One important example is that psychoanalysis can ease a thousand types of anxiety but cannot solve the fear of death. So our rebirth (either self-made or helped by others – no matter how honorable, useful and successful it is) remains hopelessly bound to Earth.

 


 

2. The touch of Totality as the start of ultimate rebirth. Thoughts about conversion

 

"When our Lord and Master,
Jesus Christ said, 'Repent'
(Matthew 4:17),
He willed the entire life of believers
to be one of repentance."
 
(Martin Luther: First of 95 theses, 1517)

 

The Totality of rebirth requires the touch of God, the acceptance and experience of love of Jesus that transforms our whole lives. This is that inexhaustible energy that provides strength for everything. For a very long time I thought that we will have a chance of real rebirth only after our death. The last two years of my own life convinced me that I was wrong. Experiencing the Totality of rebirth may be the most beautiful event of our life on Earth. Martin Luther described this as the daily conversion caused by the work of the Holy Spirit in us (already in the above cited first point of his 95 Theses and many times later). Saint Teresa of Ávila summarized her experiences gained in the seven mansions of the soul in her book, "The Interior Castle". Pope Francis has written about the lifetime deepening in saintliness in his recently published apostolic exhortation, "Gaudete et exsultate".

 

"Repent!" (Matthew 4:17) Jesus started his service with this call. The Hungarian Lutheran priest, Aladár Gáncs described conversion as the "maximum satisfaction of the most comprehensive sense of mankind's loss and deprivation". This statement made in 1930 is still very much relevant. Conversion is experiencing the infinity, permanency and faithful love of God. Conversion is rebirth, because it does not provide a revised edition of our previous lives but it gives us totally new lives. Experiencing the love of Totality reinterprets our lives and opens new perspectives we have never thought of before.

 

Many conversions remain only virtual. What are the characteristics of virtual conversion? A seemingly converted man 1.) does not see his sins; 2.) does not become ready to serve Jesus; 3.) does not have inner motivation to spread the faithful love of God and with this to help others rebirth. Very often virtual conversion is only formal (e.g. going to church itself only, or a fight against only certain sins – however successful they are), or it remains at the level of thinking. As Aladár Gáncs has summarized it perfectly in the example of Lenin, a lot of other changes may become similar to conversion in their strength overwriting our previous values. However these "conversion-like" events are far from being complete.

 

The essence of conversion is not a unique experience but a process of immersing in humility and emptying our own egos, in which man (in most of the cases slowly; moreover, quite some times with setbacks) becomes the property of God. Conversion lets us feel both the totality of our sins and the redeeming love of the crucified Jesus. It is a question of the special characteristics of each individual life, as well as the gifts of grace, whether in what order, to what extent and in what way the elements of conversion may happen. Apart from some exceptional miracles it is a long process how the image of Christ becomes visible in ourselves. Thus the real question is not that "When were you reborn?", but "To what extent have you been reborn already?" (I heard this Katalin Hélisz's pastoral care training.)

 

In the numerous miracles of the Gospels (e.g. those of Bartimeus [Mark 10:46-52] or the woman subject of bleeding [Mark 5:24-34]) it is not the miracles that matter but the common and general process of conversion. First comes the deprivation, which is only seemingly the lack of health, it is in fact, the lack of Totality. Besides this there are desire and hope that are hidden first but come to the surface as Jesus approaches. Then comes the touch of Jesus: the awestruck understanding of The moment of life, the purification of the soul which leaves its sins behind, and conversion itself. In these stories the conversion is so dramatic that can be described by the miraculous healings very well. However, miracle is only a "side effect" here, the real point is conversion itself, that is followed by a new life. A permanently new life is not generated by all miracles, as out of the ten leprous [Lucas 17:11-19] only a single one returns to give thanks, and not all the conversions are such explosive see e.g. the case of Nicodemus. Gospels show beautiful examples what are the essential characteristics of conversion and how many different ways it may happen. The previous blog posts on the "humilitypuritypoorness PATH" and on the "gratitudeserve others in lovelove network PATH" have all been examples of the work of the Holy Spirit making the image of Christ visible in our souls, thus converting us, and leading us to justification. These two PATHs gave only a taste of how many beautiful colors, flavors and forms can the unlimited freedom have that opens up in ourselves while approaching God. There are a lot more of such PATHs that overlap each other.

 

The protagonist of conversion is God (and not the converted person). That is why conversion is not a matter of will. As Aladár Gáncs has written "the matter is not whether it is justification or sanctification. The matter is that both justification and sanctification but in a way that the carrier one is the justification and the carried one is the sanctification”. (Pope Francis in his exhortation, "Gaudete et exsultate" called the practice, which considered salvation that can be gained with earthy acts and was criticized by Martin Luther, a heresy. Pope Francis declared clearly, repeatedly and emphatically that salvation exists only by mercy, moreover he added that this is the heart of the Gospel (point 55). My Lutheran soul is full of joy seeing how Christian Churches are getting closer to each other in their experience of deep humility towards God.) So the most important essence of conversion cannot be seen and cannot be told because of its contact with the Totality. Only the example of a whole life can unfold it – in its certain details.

 

Conversion is by far not a "free ticket" to eternal life.  Conversion is not the end of desire but rather the beginning of it. Often even those cases of conversion happening with total shocks are far from being complete. On the contrary! As Saint Teresa of Ávila warns repeatedly: at the beginning of its path to God the soul moved out from its egoism gets more defenseless towards devil’s temptations than the serial sinner soul has ever been. That is why the word "daily" in the daily conversion of Martin Luther becomes extremely important. There is no justification without (concentrated of continuous) conversion. At the same time conversion is not the "result", not the "end" of mercy providing justification, but the path itself going there.

 

 


 

3. How can we help others' rebirth?

 

„Today I tell you: repent!
and tomorrow you will say to me:
I have not repented, he has converted me.”
„It is for sure that everyone has a clock of his decision,
but the clock face of that clock is not in the pocket of the evangelist.”
„As far as I am concerned, I was quite surrounded by
pressing and assisting people,
but the Lord did not link my conversion’s process to any of them significantly.
I know that I would have got even further,
if I had listened to the Lord more clearly,
and with bigger consciousness I had let Him operate alone."

(Aladár Gáncs)

 

The reborn man is charged with new and new energy continuously by his strengthening contact with God. He must pass this energy to other people (otherwise he dies, just like Jeremiah would have done: "and there came in my heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones" Jeremiah 20:9). Conversion transforms man to a preacher and an evangelist "in season, out of season" (2Thimothy 4:2). But one thing is important: the preacher has to see people in the same way as God does: from inside. He must be able to love the other person together with his weaknesses, mistakes and faults, as God’s creature. A man spreading the Gospel helps a love-bridge be built between Jesus and the other person. So he is never allowed to build a wall between himself and the other person but he shares the inexhaustible love of Totality with others. He does not speak "from inside" to outside but with enormous humility he recognizes as the image of Christ becomes visible in the other person, and he makes the other person to notice this in himself.

 

On All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day
it is extremely important to remember
that Christ Jesus has resurrected!

„watching it from the viewpoint of resurrection
we may understand that placing the body into the grave,
it is not a cold depth of a hole for us any more,
but the image of Christ’s opened side,
a meeting of our fragile humanity with the endless love.

Because the grave has become the gate of Paradise
since Christ was lying there.” (Peregrin Kálmán OFM) Amen.

 

 

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