Walking in Edmonton is not for the faint of heart these days. Recent above-normal temperatures, followed by below-freezing ones, have left our streets, sidewalks, and trails covered with ice. Footing is unsure, to say the least, and signs abound warning walkers and runners of the danger of falling. In one attempt to get outside recently, I was following one of my favourite trails, and came across a very steep downward slope, covered with sheer ice. I didn’t need any sign to tell me that it would be very perilous to attempt it, so I turned around and stayed on portions of the path that were secure.
This experience played in the back of my mind as I pondered the Gospel text from St. Mark proclaimed on Sunday (cf. Mark 1: 14-20). There the Evangelist gives us the very first words preached by the Lord Jesus. Among them is the command to repent. In this summons, the Lord is calling us to turn around, to change our way of thinking and leave behind the perilous conditions caused by the “ice” of prideful self-reliance. Many are the falls we can take if that is the surface on which we take our stand and try to move.
A much safer path, in fact the only sure one, is that formed by faith. Indeed, the very next imperative spoken by Jesus is the call to faith. “Repent,” he says, “and believe in the good news.” The point of “turning around” is actually to “turn toward”. By the act of faith, we turn our lives in their entirety toward the Lord Jesus and stake everything on his love for us. This doesn’t mean we shall not encounter the occasional slips and slides, but it does mean that the Lord will hold us by the hand so that we do not suffer a fall that proves ultimately injurious to our salvation.