Conversation a lifelong effort in our spiritual journey

At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, he announced, “The kingdom of God is here; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk. 1:15) Often when we hear the word “repent” or “be converted,” we think it applies to someone who no longer believes in God and is living a life of crime. People who attend church regularly, who pray frequently, who support the work of the church, often dismiss this call as not applying to them.

However, conversion is a lifelong process for everyone. Lent is a special time in which we focus as God’s family on conversion, changing ourselves. We all need to change. We are not perfect. We need to become more Christ-like, more loving, more open to God’s Spirit.

We need to change our self-centered ways of doing things to caring for others. We need to change our tendency to worry about “what’s in it for me” to how can I help others. We need to change our need to have and buy things and take more responsibility for others and the world in which we live.

We need to change our attitudes of promoting war to promoting peace, from destroying the Earth to revering God’s creation, from despair to hope, from fear to faith, from self-hate to self-love. This includes the sinful things we do as well as our sins of omission.

Conversion is at the heart of Christianity. Although God accepts and loves us for who we are, the Creator is not finished with us. Conversion involves making God the center of our lives, to recognize God’s grace in our lives, in others and in the world in which we live.

The two questions we have to ask are: what obstacles do we need to remove from our lives that are hindering our relationship with God, others, the world and ourselves? Secondly, what do we put in their place?

We all have a deep spiritual hunger inside us. St. Augustine reminded us many years ago, “You (God) have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you.” When we try to fill our spiritual centers with substances, things, accomplishments, events, other people or our own egos, we eventually come up empty. Things and addictions can satisfy us for a while, but eventually we find that God alone can fill our deepest longings. At the heart of conversion is our willingness to allow God to take control of our lives.

The three traditional Lenten practices are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer: no matter how hectic our lives are, we need time alone to reflect on our lives. Socrates once said, “An unreflective life is not worth living.” How true! We grow in intimacy with God through meditation and other forms of prayer. In prayer we communicate with God in by speaking and listening. Prayer helps us to see what’s happening in our lives and what needs to change. We can pray anytime, anywhere. What is God calling us to do right now?

Fasting: look at fasting in a different way this year. Fast from judging others and start seeing Christ in them. Fast from being discontent and start being thankful. Fast from bitterness and anger and learn to be forgiving. Fast from anything that is imprisoning us and keeping us from living freely.

Sharing: St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer says, “It is in giving that we receive.” How true? Are we willing to share our time, gifts and our financial resources with others?

Greg Anderson tells us “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Let’s open ourselves to conversion and ask God to help us make the necessary changes.