Grow in self-control, Pope Francis urges, without making the excuse that God’s compassion will lead him to forgive your many sins. As the Book of Sirach says, “Delay not your conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath flames forth.”
The pope reflected on this advice from the Old Testament during his Mass on February 28 in the Casa Santa Marta. The advice is given, he said, as if from a father to a son, or a grandfather to a grandson.
Don’t follow your instincts, your urges, pleasing the passions of your heart. All of us have passions. But be careful. Dominate the passions. Take them in your hands. Passions aren’t bad. They are, we could say, the “blood” that enables us to do many good things, but if you aren’t capable of dominating your passions, they will dominate you. Stop yourself. Stop yourself.
Thus, the pope echoed the advice from Sirach, “Say not: ‘Who can prevail against me?’ or, ‘Who will subdue me for my deeds?’ for God will surely exact the punishment.”
As the Psalm says, Francis continued, life is passing. We are not eternal, he reminded.
Don’t be so imprudent, so daring as to believe that everything will work out as you want it … Say not: “Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive,” and thus I keep on doing what I want. Don’t say that. And the last recommendation from this dad, from this “grandpa,” is: “Delay not your conversion to the LORD.” Don’t wait to convert, to change your life, to perfect your life, to uproot those weeds — we all have them — to uproot them. “Put it not off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath flames forth.”
How to do it in just 5 minutes a day
And to make this change of life possible, Pope Francis offered a practical suggestion, saying that we shouldn’t be afraid, but should work to grow gradually in our capacity to dominate our passions.
Let us do every day a small examen of conscience in order to convert ourselves to the Lord: “Tomorrow, I will try to make sure that this [defect or sin] doesn’t happen again.” And it might happen again, but a little bit less, and you have managed to govern yourself instead of being governed by your passions or by the many things that happen. Because none of us can be certain about how and when our lives will end. These five minutes at the end of the day will help us. They will help us a lot to think, and to not postpone a change of heart and our conversion to the Lord. May the Lord teach us with his wisdom to follow this path.
See today’s readings with the First Reading from Sirach, chapter 5:
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wealth,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.