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REPENTANCE AND JUDGEMENT

Read­ing Time: 3 minutes

No evil dooms us hope­lessly except the evil we love, and desire to con­tin­ue in, and make no effort to escape from” (George Eliot).

Introduction

The gen­er­al mes­sage of the First Sunday of Advent was Jesus’ invit­a­tion to his dis­ciples and to all believ­ers to stay awake, to avoid being taken by sur­prise as in the day of Noah. In the reflec­tion of Last Sunday, I did say that “in the Scrip­tur­al under­stand­ing, being watch­ful implies not just mere care­ful­ness and alert­ness, but being just and right­eous. It is equi­val­ent to the Markan call to repent and believe the Good News because the king­dom of God is close at hand (cf. Mark 1:15).” Again, I also insisted that “keep­ing watch means being vigil­ant and not allow­ing your­self to be deceived. And being vigil­ant means truth and justice….” In this Second Sunday, Jesus gives fur­ther con­di­tion for being watch­ful and stay­ing awake – repent­ance. The themes of truth, justice and repent­ance are inter­con­nec­ted. Without true repent­ance, it is prac­tic­ally impossible to be truth­ful and just. Truth and justice are dir­ect mani­fest­a­tions of a repent­ant heart.

John the Baptist’s Invitation to Repentance

John the Baptist was an import­ant fig­ure in the Chris­ti­an Test­a­ment. He was a Jew­ish preach­er of repent­ance. Joseph­us describes him as a good man who com­manded the Jews to exer­cise vir­tue, to be right­eous towards one anoth­er and summoned them to bap­tism (cf. Joseph­us, Ant. 18.5.2 §116–119). Due to his mar­tyr­dom and the regard Jesus had for him, Chris­ti­ans regarded him as the fore­run­ner of Jesus. The echo of his invit­a­tion to repent­ance resounds in the wil­der­ness of Judaea.

On Repentance

While sin implies desert and wil­der­ness, repent­ance alludes to veget­a­tion and being inhab­ited by the grace of God. The Greek term metanoeō (to repent), implies change of mind. Metanoeō derives from meta (after) and nous (mind, under­stand­ing) for the noun and noeō (to per­ceive, under­stand) for the verb. How­ever, the Chris­ti­an (New) Test­a­ment usage does not neces­sar­ily reflect this ety­mo­logy. That is, in the Chris­ti­an Test­a­ment, metanoeō does not simply mean to per­ceive after or after­wards. Non­ethe­less, its usage is not com­pletely unre­lated to the ety­mo­logy. Prob­ably, it is because a per­son per­ceives or under­stands things bet­ter after­wards that he or she is cap­able of per­ceiv­ing his or her error. It is such per­cep­tion or under­stand­ing that leads to repent­ance. Both the verb (metanoeō) and the noun (metanoia) refer to change of mind, repent­ance, con­ver­sion.

There is a close link between the proph­et­ic call to repent­ance and John the Baptist who called the people to repent and pro­duce fruit in keep­ing with repent­ance (cf. Matt 3:2.8). Such call is addressed to every­one (cf. Acts 13:24; 19:4), includ­ing the pious who thought they had no need of repent­ance (cf. Matt 3:7–12). How­ever, there is a dif­fer­ence between the proph­et­ic call and John the Baptist’s invit­a­tion to repent­ance. While the proph­ets’ call to repent and return to God’s right­eous­ness was motiv­ated by Israel’s social unright­eous­ness and idol­atry, that of John the Baptist was motiv­ated by the fact that “the king­dom of heav­en is near” (Matt 3:2). This implies there is only one way to escape God’s judg­ment. People must repent so that their entire lives will change and be brought into a new rela­tion­ship with God (cf. Matt 3:10). Fur­ther­more, John the Baptist links his call to repent­ance with bap­tism which sig­ni­fies for­give­ness of sins (cf. Mark 1:4). The amal­gam­a­tion of being bap­tized with water and in the spir­it sig­ni­fies the cleans­ing of the per­son and his or her for­ti­fic­a­tion for the Gospel.

Conclusion

As John the Baptist said rebuk­ing the Phar­isees and the Sad­ducees, true repent­ance must be proved by good fruit as evid­ence of such repent­ance (cf. Matt 3:8). As Thad­deus of Vitovn­ica puts it “repent­ance is not only going to a priest and con­fess­ing. We must free ourselves from the obses­sion of thoughts. We fall many times dur­ing our life, and it is abso­lutely neces­sary to reveal everything [in Con­fes­sion] to a priest who is a wit­ness to our repent­ance. Repent­ance is the renew­al of life. This means we must free ourselves from all our neg­at­ive traits and turn toward abso­lute good. No sin is unfor­giv­able except the sin of unre­pent­ance.” The worst sin­ners are those who are not con­scious of hav­ing sinned.  Integ­rity and faith­ful­ness are signs of true repent­ance (cf. First Read­ing). Have a blessed week and God bless you. Sha­lom!

 

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