February 23, 2017 – Thursday in the 7th Week of the Church Year

Polycarp (c. 69 – c. 155)

Scripture readings for today’s liturgy:

Sirach 5:1-8    –    Psalm 1    –    Mark 9:41-50

“Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day.” (Sirach 5:6ff)

 I only have a vague recollection of one of the religious orders who take a fourth vow, “conversion of ways” but it resounds with the quote above and reminds us of the daily need for “conversion.”

I remember walking across the campus at Arizona State University on my way to mid-day Mass in the campus chapel. I was wearing my Dominican habit so was highly visible to all the people milling around. I was stopped by one of those “overly evangelistic students” who asked me, “Have you accepted Christ as you personal savior?” When I answered, “yes,” he quickly followed up with, “when was that?” I think he was stunned by my answer: “I think – just a few moments ago when I decided to come over here to get ready for Mass. Before that, it was probably this morning when I woke up and asked God to be with me in all my endeavors of this day.”

“Delay not your conversion to the Lord …”

 Then we come to today’s Holy Gospel! WOW! If we took this with every jot and tittle there would be a lot of crippled and maimed people hobbling around in our world. I think we have to take these words “with a grain of salt” in order to know what Jesus is aiming at.

Yes! All of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God and we have the promise of forgiveness seventy times seventy but we can’t try to turn that around with the thought, “let me just do this one, little sin and then I can ask forgiveness of God.

In this section of Mark’s Gospel Jesus is using a form of speech intended to catch people up quick and jar them loose from thinking everything’s OK and we can just cruise through life until we get to the Pearly Gates!

I remember – in my early days as a young Dominican – taking care of an elderly priest who was in his 90’s and asking him, “Father, when did it all come together and start to get easier?” His answer, in his unsteady, shaky voice, “Nnnn- not yet!” taught me something about conversion that I’ve not forgotten in all these years.

The ending of today’s Holy Gospel gives us these words, “Keep salt – in the sense of freshness and flavor and daily conversion – in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.” Amen

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