The Good News of Conversion: It’s Not Too Late

User’s Guide to Sunday, Sept. 27

'What can help us to be open to the grace of deeper conversion? Humility. '
'What can help us to be open to the grace of deeper conversion? Humility. ' (photo: Photo by Anna Hecker on Unsplash)

Sunday, Sept. 27, is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Mass readings: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Philippians 2:1-11 or 2:1-5; Matthew 21:28-32.

When St. John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary, he gave us an amazing gift. The third is a double “event” linked as a single grace. When the good news of the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, this is an immediate call to conversion. Conversion is not only a onetime dramatic event — it is a call that comes to us day by day as God draws us to deeper love and truer fidelity to grace.

Today’s readings proclaim the good news that even if we have failed to receive and give love, we can change our minds and hearts by God’s grace. Who among us has not been unfaithful to God? Who cannot identify with the “tax collectors and prostitutes” (Matthew 21:32), who, although they had failed, were willing to change their minds and follow Christ? This is great news! The real possibility of conversion was taught by Ezekiel, as we hear in the first reading: “But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life” (Ezekiel 18:27).

This is good news but also challenging news. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that real conversion is deeper than sayingwe will serve God. Real conversion comes from the heart and is shown in our actions. In Christ’s parable, the son who said he would work in the vineyard but never did is not yet truly converted. The son who said he would not serve but later went to do what the Father asked is seen as faithful.

What can help us to be open to the grace of deeper conversion? Humility. Today’s Psalm reminds us that our merciful Lord “guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). If we think we know all the answers and that we are perfectly loving already, we close ourselves to the grace to be converted and transformed. On the other hand, when we humbly open ourselves to the grace to be shown by the Holy Spirit where and how we can grow, the Lord is always wanting to draw us to greater love and faithfulness.

The pattern and giver of the humility needed for true conversion is Jesus, the Son of God. As St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus … he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5,8). Earlier in the same letter, Paul offers a practical way of living out such Christlike humility. He exhorts the followers of Christ, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others” (Philippians 2:3).

When we ponder such beautiful humility, we all have room for conversion. When the Holy Spirit allows us to see the unconverted aspects of ourselves in our attitudes, thoughts, words and actions, this is a gift. We can humbly seek the Lord’s mercy, knowing that he delights in our turning away from selfishness to self-giving love. The ever-present love and mercy of God give us every reason to hope that our failures do not define us and that newness of mind and heart are there for the receiving. This is the “encouragement in Christ” (Philippians 2:1) that can heal discouragement and banish despair by hope.