John the Baptist and Jesus
These are the first world we hear from the lips of Our Blessed Savior as He initiates His Public ministry. Conversion in Greek is Metanoia, meaning change of heart. The core of the teaching of the Precursor of Jesus, St. John the Baptist, was the same--- “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Furthermore, St. Peter, the first Pope, called to carry on the work of Jesus as Head of the Church, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, also preached the call to conversion. Therefore, if the greatest of all prophets, the first Pope, and Jesus Himself preached the urgency of conversion then indeed it must be important!
The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, reiterates this message in various forms and seasons. At the start of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, after greeting the people, the priest invites the whole congregation and himself, to pause briefly for an examination of conscience. On what? Our communal and personal recognition of sin and humble invocation that God would have mercy on us and help us to undergo metanoia—conversion of life.
St. John Bosco confessing
CONFESSION. Indeed there is a Sacrament designed for conversion; this is the sacrament of Confession. In Confession one receives God’s mercy and forgiveness as a result of an interior desire for conversion. The grace from this sacrament empowers the will of the sinner to renounce sin (metanoia) and embrace the gentle yoke of Jesus.
LENT. The Church offers annually the opportunity to collaborate with God in a profound conversion of life in the Holy Season of Lent. In Lent we follow Our Lord into the desert for forty days and forty nights in silence, prayer, fasting and serious examination of conscience with the purpose of undergoing conversion of life!
Ways that we can undergo a true conversion of life! The following are ways that we can delve deep into our souls and strive for a sincere and deep conversion of life! However, we must always remember that true conversion of life is more God’s work in our souls than our doing! We must collaborate with the grace of the Lord!
The mind and memory must be purified!
1. MEMORY. Our memory is in need of constant purification. St. Paul exhorts us to put on the mind of Christ; then he says that you have the mind of Christ. Past wounds in our early years, addictions that enslaved us like pornography, abuses either physical, emotional, social or moral--- all of these must be brought to the Lord for a deep healing and conversion. One short but powerful suggestion: THE WORD OF GOD! The Word of God is powerful like a two-edged sword that separates bone from marrow! The daily reading of the Word of God in prayerful meditation can result in the conversion of the mind. One more step: memorize Sacred Scripture! If you like this analogy: what chlorine is and does to a swimming pool (cleansing and purifying) the Word of God can do to the human mind! Lord, may your Word be a light for my path and a torch for my steps!
The eyes of Jesus
2. EYES. Our eyes need constant vigilance and control. Unfortunately, the most powerful addiction in the United States is that of pornography. Children are exposed to this ravenous and merciless wolf at a very tender age. Studies show that pornography can be more powerful than the addiction to drugs. A recovering gang member, drug-addict and alcoholic rejoiced that he was able to conquer all the above vices. However, he could not detach himself from the addiction to pornography. Three suggestions to attain this metanoia/conversion. At the crack of dawn upon waking, to consecrate one’s whole being--- especially the eyes—to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Second, when tempted invoke the Precious Blood of Jesus as a shield against the fiery darts of the devil. Lastly, visit the Blessed Sacrament exposed and contemplate the Eucharistic heart of Jesus. In the words of the Psalmist: “Look to the Lord and be radiant with joy.”
Careful what you say!
3. TONGUE. Our tongue has to be controlled constantly! Saint James reminds us poignantly that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Jesus reminds us that every word that issues from our mouth will be subject to judgment. Also the Lord tells us that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Three concrete suggestions to attain conversion of our mouth, a transformation of our speech. First, we should get in the habit of speaking more to God and less to people. Second, we should learn to hold back our impulsivity and think before we speak. Finally, apply the Golden Rule of Jesus to speech. Do to others what you would have them do to you; say to others what you would like them say to you! Following this advice we are on the highway to converting our tongue!
All for your glory O Lord!
4. INTENTIONS. Being honest with ourselves we must humble admit that our intentions are often mixed. Even in the best of actions are hidden some self-seeking, self-love and vanity. Sincere examination of conscience will highlight this truth! In the Diary of Saint Faustina, time and time again Jesus manifests His desire that she always have purity of intention, that her actions be done to please Him and for the honor and glory of God. The Bible points out that man sees the appearance but God reads the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus strictly warns us not to do our actions to be seen and praised by man. Remember! Do your actions such that your right hand does not even know what your left hand is doing. Your father who sees in secret will recompense you. The motto of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits) is four letters: A.M.D.G. --- Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam--- meaning, for the greater glory of God. That indeed should be the motivating principle that drives all of our actions in life! One concrete suggestion to obtain the conversion/metanoia of our intentions--- Give all to Jesus through the hands of Mary. In the classic of St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis presents a scene in which a pauper desires to present the King with an apple. The apple is not of the best, nor is the pauper the most worthy of admiration. However there is a secret to access to the heart of the King--- the love the King has for his Queen. If the pauper can reach the Queen and give her the apple, then her Highness will take the apple, polish it, place it on a golden platter next to a beautiful flower and present it to the King. Then the King will accept it. Why? Not because of the pauper but because of the powerful and irresistible persuasion of the Queen. If we place our intentions in the Immaculate Heart of Mary then she purifies, embellishes and corrects our distorted motives!
The most Sacred Heart of Jesus
5. HEART. Last but not least we all must go through a daily conversion of the very center of our being--- our heart. Jesus says that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The human heart can contain within it the most noble of intentions, but the human heart can also embrace the most despicable of desires! Constant conversion/metanoia of heart is necessary on a daily basis! What might be the most efficacious means to undergo a true conversion of heart? Simple and to the point: FERVENT AND PASSIONATE DAILY HOLY COMMUNION! In Holy Communion we receive the totality of Jesus: His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Therefore, if we receive His Body, that means we also receive His Sacred Heart. In the most Sacred Heart of Jesus can be found all of the most sublime virtues and to the highest degree of holiness and perfection. Faith, hope, charity, patience, purity, meekness, obedience, mortification, fortitude--- just to mention a few, are some of the virtues present in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These virtues are present in every Consecrated Host that we can receive in Holy Communion on a daily basis. In a real sense, we can undergo a daily spiritual HEART-TRANSPLANT every time we receive Holy Communion with faith, devotion and love. Beyond a shadow of doubt, Holy Communion received with the proper dispositions is by far the most efficacious channel to arrive at a true conversion of heart. Our Lord’s loving Heart burns and consumes all that is ugly and ignoble in our hearts so that we can truly say with the Apostle Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!”