In our first reading from Sirach, the author says, “Delay not your conversion to the Lord.” This is toward the end of our reading, but what has gone before, and what we hear Jesus say in our Gospel reading all point to what conversion to the Lord means.
Sirach says, “Rely not on your wealth… Rely not on your strength.” Perhaps the most fundamental change in attitude that is necessary for conversion is surrender. The closer we get to God, the more we realize we need to surrender to God’s will, and the more we rely on God rather than our own devices. This is humbling, and sometimes hard to acknowledge, but it is the only way to real peace and serenity. Every time I try to do it my way instead of God’s way, I get into trouble!
The urgency of conversion comes across in what Jesus says in our Gospel reading from Mark. When Jesus talks about moving away from sin, He says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Jesus is not asking us to mutilate ourselves, but he is challenging us to let go of anything that gets in the way of following Him and coming to the Father. The willingness to do that is a sign of conversion.
The world needs what we have been given: The Good News of Jesus Christ! The world needs more demonstrations of love and peace and justice! I think this is what Jesus means by saying “Keep salt in yourselves, and you will have peace with one another.” If we keep the seasoning of God’s love in ourselves, we can be at peace, work peacefully with others, and spread peace to all. The time for conversion is now!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.