by Sarah Rachel Teo
I attended the Awaken conversion retreat in 2013 because the new Catholic friends I had met in polytechnic were also going for it and I wanted to be with them. This spurred my desire to serve in my parish youth community, polytechnic community, and in catechetical ministry as a facilitator.
But as I spent the next few years just serving and attending to other people’s needs, I neglected my own. It wasn’t until I attended the School of Christian Leadership in May this year that I realised that I needed to take care of my own spiritual growth too.
“… we need to experience constant, everyday conversion.” While I kept on giving, I was not fully present to God. Hence, I was not able to give of myself fully to the people I ministered to. All the things I did were only activities on my schedule; amidst my busy-ness I did not take time to renew my faith in Christ. I realised that a conversion retreat or an encounter retreat can only sustain us for a while – we need to experience constant, everyday conversion.
First, what is conversion?
The Greek word for conversion is metanoia, which means “a change of mind”. Conversion is turning away from a state of sin to repentance, unbelief to belief; it is a change of heart from bad to good. It is the “first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit” that moves us to “turn toward God and away from sin” and accept “forgiveness and righteousness from on high” (CCC 1989).
At times, conversion is drastically life changing, just like how I radically decided to be more involved in church activities – serving God’s people as a way of expressing my gratitude for His love for me. Other times, it may not be that drastic, but we are still able to pinpoint a time or a person (it does not have to be a conversion retreat!) that inspires us to change our lives.
Yet, a one-time conversion experience, no matter how significant, is not enough to last a lifetime. We cannot sustain our lives on one conversion; we need to constantly realign ourselves toward Him, especially when we fall. Only then can we recognise the work of God in all aspects of our lives.
Consistency is Key
The key to sustaining our faith is consistency. There needs to be constant conversion, which means a conscious renewing of our lives in Jesus every day. Each day becomes a new day where we choose to lead a life for the Lord. Choosing to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to other things is in itself a conversion that occurs as we focus our hearts and minds toward Him. By actively choosing Jesus in our everyday lives, we bring into consciousness our desire to commit our lives to Him.
So, how can we choose Jesus more actively in our everyday lives? Here are three practical tips on how we can lead a life of constant conversion:
1. The Sacraments
The Mass, adoration, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are very tangible ways to convert our hearts to the Lord. The Eucharist helps us to become more like Christ as we consume Him in the body. Adoring the Body of Christ allows us to truly focus on Jesus. And as we confess our sins, we turn our hearts and minds away from sin.
These are the easiest ways to achieve constant conversion, but sometimes they may also be the hardest. I find myself coming up with excuses such as the lack of time or that the church is out of the way. When this happens, I need to remember that while continuous conversion is not easy, the end goal of heaven will bring me the greatest joy.
2. Morning and Evening Prayers
I find morning prayer a great way to start the day – thanking God for waking me up and reminding myself to commit the new day to Him. The Examen is a useful guide for evening prayer. I would reflect on what has happened throughout the day and thank the Lord for them. It also allows me to be more aware of what I have done wrong, and how I can improve myself for the next day and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.
We can also pray the Divine Office throughout the day. Or we can simply say, “I commit this day to You”, in the morning and, “Thank you Lord for today”, in the evening.
3. Praying before Doing Something Important
Praying before studying or sending out that important email to your boss really reminds us to place our trust in God even in the everyday things. I admit I sometimes just scream, “Ah… Jesus!” while submitting an essay for a school assignment. I would remember that, no matter the result, God has already taken care of it. These simple actions constantly remind me that God is present not just in church or a ministry setting but in the mundane too.
I am still learning to live my life for Jesus and rely on Him even when I fall against temptation and sin. I still need to constantly and consciously redirect my focus towards Him by changing my heart and mind in small ways. We need to constantly go through states of conversion from sin to God. Even though we may fail and go off track in this ongoing journey of conversion, we are called to keep going in our efforts to consistently try to align our lives with Him.