OPTION 3: Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD in his homily book, Inquirer Moments, Cycle A, shared that when he was putting his vestments in preparation for a funeral Mass, a little girl of 5 or 6, closely observing him, candidly asked in a loud voice for all to hear: “Are you going to change to a priest?” everybody smiled and of course Fr. Orbos too. But her innocent question really hit him. He wanted to tell her right there and then that he is a priest, with or without his priestly vestments and that priesthood is not something you put on. But all that would have been jargon for her young mind. So he just smiled at her and tapped her head but deep inside, he knew the Lord had spoken through the mouth of this babe.
Looking at today’s gospel reading, this speaks also about change and true conversion. St. John the Baptist begins with a strict injunction: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and during this four weeks of Advent season we are told to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming at Christmas by a renewal of our lives. In addition, the Baptist also speaks about preparing the way of the Lord and making straight His path.
So what are we going to do now? What we are going to do is repent. A great saint once said: “There is no holiness without repentance for we begin in sin and move to holiness by repentance alone.” The words “repent,” “repentance,” and “repented” are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. There has been a lot of misunderstanding and confusion over what the word repentance means. It is referring to a truly God-given, Spirit-led change of heart and mind toward God about sin. The Greek word for repent is metanoia. Metanoia is a biblical term for repentance or complete change of heart which turns one away from sin to serve the living God and live differently from the rest. We repent when we genuinely believe that we have been wrong and that God is right about the matter. Repenting is turning, repenting is change and repenting is living differently.
And so based on the above reflection, let us look at what true repentance should mean for us. In this sense, I will borrow some of the reflection of Most Rev. Pedro D. Arigo, DD published in the Homily Guides of the Archdiocese of Manila (2007 Advent and Christmas) by which he says that true repentance involves many Rs.
The first R is Regret or we are sorry and for the right reason. This means that we honestly accept the wrongs we have done. There is no other reason why we regret but love. We regret to have done something against God, who is good and all loving. But Pulpit Helps (May, 1991) said that there are ten things you will never regret: Showing kindness to an aged person; Destroying a letter written in anger; Offering an apology that will save a friendship; Stopping a scandal that was ruining a reputation; Helping a boy/girl find themselves; Taking time to show consideration to parents, friends, brothers and sisters; Refraining from gossip when others around you delight in it; Refusing to do a thing which is wrong, although others do it; Living according to your convictions; Accepting the judgment of God on any question.
The second R is Repair or Restore. This means we are willing and able to make up for the damages or harm we have caused for our sins. We accept it without rationalization, justification or projection of the sins we have committed and blamed others for doing it. In case of injustice we have done against our neighbor, we have to make our restitution or pay for the damages.
The third R is Reconciliation. This means that strange or broken relationships are mended or made whole again. We have come back to God as our Father and to each other as brothers and sisters. Reconciliation is changing also for a better relationship between two or more persons. Theologically it refers to the change of relationship between God and man. We are naturally children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and are at enmity with God (Eph. 2:11-15); but, “…we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son…” (Rom. 5:10). Because of the death of Jesus, the Christian’s relationship with God is changed for the better.
The last R is Renewal. This means there is a change within us that is of course, reflected in change of behavior. In other words, this is conversion which literally means, change of direction or a turning away from sin and turning towards God happens. This is an ongoing never ending process.
After going through with these four Rs, we are renewed and become agents of renewals of others. It is because real repentance leads to true conversion and in turn true conversion produces good fruits. Just like this story: Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his relationship with Christ demanded a confession. And he even voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money!
And so how do I witness at home, to my spouse, to my children, in my work, and in my parish? Do I understand that my example is powerful?
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A
Back to: Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)