Constant Call to Conversion
I was privileged to visit the excavations of Beit She’an, a 7,000 year old city near the Jordan River. Over 3000 years ago the headless corpse of King Saul was hung on the wall of the city. Being at the excavations was a powerful reminder that this talented charismatic leader was brought to a terribly horrible end because he foolishly turned away from God.
In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that most dangerous thing in the world is to turn away from God. “Unless you convert you likewise will perish.” The word for convert in the original Greek is metavoeo. It means give an afterthought to the event. It is difficult to translate in English. It basically means to reconsider, have second thoughts about God’s concern about us. The word occurs 58 times in New Testament showing its importance in the Gospel. The Scriptures use a number of different terms for the same idea. The OT Hebrew uses “turn”, “face”, “repentance” and other words to express turning to God.
In our Gospel for the day the word for conversion is in the present tense indicating that the call to turn to God is ongoing. There are special moments of grace which move us profoundly, but the call for turning to God with ever deepening understanding of His love for us is a daily command. St. Paul of the Cross used to encourage his religious to turn to God a thousand times a day if possible. Even in the best of us there is a certain aversion to conversion. Trivial things take on an importance that far outweighs their significance.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their preaching career with:” “Repent (metavoeo), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mt 4:17 The imperative of Jesus calls attention to the closeness of God. Jesus Himself is the “autobasilius”. Origen reminds us his presence is the kingdom. When we turn to Him our action takes on an excitement like none other! He is “the living One” “In His presence is the fullness of joy.” Ps 16:11 When the young man departs from Christ in Mk 10:17 he is “gloomy”, and “he went away grieving”. The ultimate sadness in life is to live unattached to Christ, “the Living One”!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.