January 24, 2020 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012421.cfm)
Our gospel today reminds us that the first message Jesus ever preached to us is “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and Believe the Good News.” God’s grace is now upon us & before calling us to “Come after Him” in discipleship, we are invited first to repentance & faith. His missionary preaching begins then by calling us all to repent and embrace His Good News. With our repentance & faith in Jesus, God’s kingdom starts, happens & is upon us.
Easy for us to understand this call to repentance and faith as primarily directed toward sinners. But we should never forget God’s offer of grace is intended for everyone, and not only to sinners. Even Jesus himself had lots of difficulties communicating this message to good people than with sinners. Why? Because the hardest people of all to change their ways & believe are the so-called good and righteous people. They simply don’t see any need of conversion. They think that as sick people need healing; only sinners need repentance and faith. But, the call to repentance and faith is in reality a constant call for everyone – an invitation for all, good or bad we may be, that we have to struggle with in life.
It means to feel dissatisfied with oneself, and thus longing for something better in one’s life. There must be a sense of something is wrong, or at least something is lacking or missing in one’s life – A feeling of discontent with what is happening with the usual status quo – with what is going on with one’s life. To repent is not only to be sorry for what we have done but also what we have failed to do. Usually repentance begins in the realization that we are not what we could or should be; or we are not what we choose to be. A realization that – “Hindi ako naging karapat-dapat”, Dili ako nahimong angayan, dili ko nangin takus.
It also means being true & honest with oneself – to put an end to self-deception, and to confront painful self-realities. Surely, it takes a lot of honesty & courage for a person to line up for confession, admitting one’s guilt, asking forgiveness, and resolving to change. And sometimes, it is more difficult to admit one’s mistake than to be sorry for one’s sins & to ask forgiveness. Easy for us to make excuses & quick to blame others than to admit our shortcomings. Repentance & faith meant to be true to say to oneself: “I am wrong. I am sorry. Period” (no more excuses/blame). Magpakatotoo ka, brother.
Moreover, the call for us to repent & believe requires us to make a decision to change oneself. And this is difficult, for it entails a lot of responsibilities. Human as we are, as much as possible, we tend to escape from making a stance or commitment in life. However, whatever your decision today, whether to choose life or death, to help or exploit oneself or others, to do good or evil deeds, to accept responsibility or blame others, mirrors your very own identity, your conviction and commitment as human persons. As the saying goes, “Kon gusto mo ng pagbabago sa buhay, umpisahan mo sa sarili mo.” God’s grace of change & renewal of life begins by being responsible for oneself.
Tough road it might be to tread, repentance & faith can be & should be a very positive experience. True, to admit that all is unwell, time now to change & be true and more responsible for oneself can be difficult. But it also means to discover something new and better about oneself. It means not being tied up with biases and prejudices, challenging one’s values, opening up to others options and possibilities, and seeing life anew with the eyes of faith. In other words, it offers us an alternative & much better meaning & attitude in life. Repentance & faith then could be an exciting and joyful adventure.
This is what happened to the apostles when they responded to Jesus’ call for repentance and faith. Inasmuch as it staggered them from their old convictions, confronted themselves, left their nets and followed him, it offered them also a new & better Way, Truth & Life – from being fishermen to be now Fishers of men.
Same way as the apostle, the people of Nineveh & even God repented and believed, (by means of, by way of) Via our repentance & faith, God’s kingdom, grace & miracles are here upon & with us always.
Even now amidst pandemic times, the call of Jesus to us remains the same: Repent & Believe the Gospel for the Kingdom of God is at hand. May we continually allow God’s grace & miracle work in us via our repentance & faith in the Gospel of Salvation Jesus is offering us now & always. Amen.