Seeing our potential for conversion, Jesus wants to cultivate the soil, the humus, the humble reality of who we are. And he can accomplish in the humble heart, what spring brings about in nature. But he never forces his way. Christ Jesus is on our side, but always, always waiting upon our request, our admission of our sinfulness to do his work. We must open to him, even a tiny crack will do.
Jesus the good gardener only wants us to depend on him, repent and beg his mercy, the Father’s mercy that Jesus is for us. Beg his care, his way, his life, his compassion. Only his tender mercy can retrain our tendency toward sin. Tendency literally means, we’re naturally inclined, leaning toward it, stretching out toward it haplessly like vines programmed to cling to the nearest solid thing.
But always, always he begs our cooperation, not to resist the painful trimming, the smelly fertilizing, the shock of his loosening the hard soil at our feet and the sudden drenching with clean, cool water. Our privileged task is the repetitive work of humility- continually returning to the back door of the church and standing there in the dim light, our heads lowered, begging with the publican, “Lord be merciful to me a poor sinner.”
Such is the treasure, the challenge of our conversatio as monks, as baptized members of Christ’s body - constantly to depend on, to cooperate with the desire of God’s mercy enfleshed in Christ. For God’s mercy in Christ is an endless treasure, a deep, rich mine where we can dig and dig for more brilliant jewels of mercy, forgiveness. Jesus’ call to repentance is not a mandate from a far-off tyrant but a loving plea from One who wants a way in; calling us to the courage of constant conversion, relentless turning around to him, to one another. Turning, turning.
He begs for our constant availability to his mercy. This is God’s deepest desire for us. God never tires of giving us second chances but waits for our admission of need. He longs for access to our broken, guilt-ridden hearts, our very innards, but he can’t get in unless we open up. And if God forbid, we refuse to repent, we’ll be stranded, held back from the mercy that is our lifeline in Christ. Time is running out but in Christ, there is still time.
Christ Jesus our Lord knows well that we have the potential to bring forth sweet fruit of peace, justice, and reconciliation. He asks only that we take a small step into the reality of our tendency, our truth, our sinfulness, and invite him in to do His work, over and over again. There is still time. He has witnessed our affliction, the burden of our guilt, and has come down to rescue us, to feed us, to mercy us with His Body and Blood.