Today, I did something good for myself. I spent my 15 minute break attending mass with the residents of our centre. Others go smoke. Why couldn’t I go to mass instead, right? I also went to receive the ashes. As the priest drew the cross on my forehead, he said (in French): ‘Convert and believe in the good news.’

The exact English translation of this passage in Mark 1:15 is ‘Repent and believe in the good news’ As I’ve pointed out before in another blog, I am always fascinated by the subtleties in translation. Even in this simple example, I think it is quite striking that the French and the English convey a different connotation in using ‘Convert’ instead of ‘Repent’. These are the first words Jesus preached when he came out of his forty days in the desert, so I think they are worth pondering over a little. As I sat writing my charts after mass, I couldn’t help but think these things over.

First of all, what was I supposed to convert from? And to what?

Most people would just assume that it means to convert to Christianity and to Jesus. It made me smile that I was even asking these questions. But it just shows me how much my faith has changed over the years. My tradition is built around Jesus first and foremost. Not a Church, not a religion, not an establishment. So when I ponder these words, I wonder what Jesus meant when he said this. He couldn’t have meant to convert to Christianity or to the Church. Those things didn’t even exist. Did he mean to bestow all our faith in him. I don’t think so either. If that’s what he wanted, I think he would have simply said ‘I am the son of God and you should put all your faith in me.’ God honors too much our free will to demand our blind faith in him. So when he says ‘Convert’ or ‘Repent’, I think he is telling us that it is time to change. He says: Look inside. See what’s there. Go to that place and become something new.

The next question I asked is ‘What’s the good news?’ I almost laughed aloud when the question popped into my head. People throw around the ‘Good News’ left and right. Do they actually stop to wonder what that good news is? So what is it? Is it that Jesus comes to take our faults and rise from the dead? Well, in the present context, it has not yet happened. He is just coming out of his baptism and starting to preach to the masses. The Resurrection couldn’t be the good news he refers to right there. Coupled to that first induction to convert, it seems to me that this good news is that we are about to change. We can go within and find that sacred place. We are able to change ourselves. We are no longer bound by social conventions or religious rule or even our own physicality. We can witness God because he is among us, with us and in us. That is the good news Jesus announces. What a marvelous thing!

I believe that Our Lord reveals himself in different ways to different people. When you ask questions, he answers them in a way that we may understand. That is what I understood today. He may bless you with a different understanding, a different vision or story. Please feel free to share your own insights and your own good news.