Conversion ain’t pretty or easy.

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Violent imagery is central in today’s first reading (Col. 3:1-11).

No one in their right mind likes to think about putting anyone or anything to death. But St. Paul clearly teaches the Christians in Colossae,

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly…

His words remind us of the brutal crucifixion of Jesus, who was put to death for our sins. Paul instructs that, through baptism, we “have died” and “have been raised with Christ.” But have taken the effort to truly put to death these things within us?

immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry…anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language…lying to one another…prejudice and discrimination

The reading reminds me of a powerful classic film released in 1953, The Robe. In it, we meet Marcellus, a Roman soldier who assisted in Christ’s crucifixion. He comes to believe that Jesus’ robe has put a curse on him, since he is tortured with the guilt of his actions. The Roman emperor gives him a commission: find & destroy the robe, and discover the names of Jesus’ followers.

In Marcellus’ journey, he encounters small Christian communities and even some apostles. They influence his eventual conversion to follow the Man whose death had haunted him for years. How was he able to radically convert? Marcellus learns about the Resurrection and the Love that Christ has for him.

By our own power or strength, our own virtue or talents, we cannot take off our old self or put to death our sinful tendancies. We must let Christ live in us. Christ’s power over sin and death will empower us to defeat those enemies. As Paul says, Christians

have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Here is Marcellus hearing the Resurrection story for the first time, in The Robe:

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