There is usually a purpose behind every visit, especially when a prominent personality is coming to a place. It is common to hear about a president or governor coming to a city or town for one reason or the other. Journalists and news reporters would often dig through to find the underlying causes for such visits and relate the same to people through the media. In short, there is usually a reason behind every visit whatsoever; even “no reason” is itself a reason.
The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we anticipate with the preparatory facility of the Advent period, is for a reason. What is that? Our Lord Jesus Christ is not coming for thirty-three years paid vacation on earth. Instead, he is coming to take away the guilt and punishment for our sins and transgressions. He accomplished that through his teachings, suffering, death, and resurrection.
Among the numerous themes in the Readings today, the subject of repentance in the Gospel Reading (Matt. 3:1-12) from the oracle of John the Baptist catches the attention of this reflection. John shows up in the desert of Judea, saying, “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He further ascribes to himself the passage from the prophet Isaiah that talks about a voice crying out in the desert, asking people to prepare the way of the Lord and to make his paths straight.
The theme of repentance does not appeal to most people because some feel that a preacher would make them feel bad about themselves, and some still feel beaten up or judged. If anyone feels that way, then that is a sign that the individual needs repentance.
Before we go into a more profound reflection on repentance, there would be a need for us to discard what we could call the perfectionist mentality. The perfectionist mentality gives us the false feeling that we don’t sin. Instead, it tells us that we only make small mistakes caused by someone or something out there
This perfectionist mentality is an illusion that is depriving a lot of Christians of the privilege of acknowledging their sinfulness and the opportunity of receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation.
The Nature and Power of Repentance
There is power in repentance, but it takes a reflective mind to discover it. From the gospel passage today, John the Baptist started by calling for repentance as a precondition to receiving the Kingdom of God, “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” In other words, nobody would be fit for the Kingdom of God without repentance. If we do a little research, we would see that our Lord Jesus Christ gave us a preview of what happens in heaven when someone on earth repents, (Luke 15:7):
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The passage above makes us understand that heaven endorses the repentance that happens here on earth. By the way, the earth is the only place that repentance can take place; there is no repentance in heaven nor hell.
At this point, we need to understand or review our understanding of repentance as a very important spiritual exercise. The word repentance goes back to the Greek word Metanoia, which means to change one’s mind or heart. In the Hebrew language, the word that translates repentance is Teshuvah, which means to turn back or to make a U-turn.
In our daily lives, we often change our minds about certain things. They could relate to what we want to eat, what we want to buy, or where we want to go. We also turn back or back off from people, places, and events, especially when we sense danger or something unsettling.
Moving Forward: Advent without Repentance has no Advantage
Preparing the way for the Lord calls for a total renovation of our lives, and this can only happen when we take the route of repentance. The Advent season will have no advantage for us if we do not change our minds about the things we do and do not do, and if we do not turn around or make a desirable U-turn.
The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-30) could give us a more illustrative example here. When the young man had exhausted his resources in the distant country, he suddenly comes to his senses (to himself). Here, we identify the moment of changing the mind, and following this change, he decides to turn around and go back to his father.
True repentance cannot happen if we do not accept that we sin. The First Letter of John (1 John 1:8) says that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. The Book of Ecclesiastes (7:20) says that there is no righteous person who does good and never sins. According to St. Paul, we all are sinners running short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
The acceptance of our sinfulness would precede the feeling of sorrow for our sins and the intentional changing of our minds and turning back to God. If you take a reflective look into your life, you would discover that there are things that need to change. Often, we think that other people need the change, while in the real sense, we are the ones that need to restructure and repent.
As we march through this second week of Advent of this liturgical year, let us allow the word of God to speak to our hearts. Let us change our minds and turn around to God so that we can be on a dependable platform when he comes to us during this season of preparation for Christmas. Have a blessed Second Sunday of Advent.