The Gift of Repentance

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“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Today, we read about how Jesus makes a personal retreat into the region of Zebulon and Naphtali in Galilee having heard of the arrest of John the Baptist thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah regarding that area. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” And Jesus preached throughout the towns saying: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The best gift we can give to Jesus is the gift of our Personal Repentance. To repent means to acknowledge one’s imperfections and faults, admit one’s errors and deliberately decide to change. Repentance begins from the heart. A heart that is unaware of its sinfulness is incapable of repentance. A heart that is proud and boastful or self-conceited is incapable of repentance. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1st John 1:8).

Nothing pleases God as much as a heart that repents and decides to turn from its sinful ways. The aroma of repentance is far more pleasing than that of sacrifices of fat rams and bulls. As the Psalmist declares; “For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God pays close attention to the prayers of a repentant person. As the Prophet Isaiah makes us understand: “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2).

Repentance is deciding from today to pick up the Bible and tremble at God’s words and allowing those words to become a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths. (Psalm 119:105).

Repentance brings healing. Notice that in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus began by calling the people to repentance and what followed next was healing. “And he went about all Galilee, TEACHING in their synagogues and PREACHING the gospel of the kingdom and HEALING every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24). Take note of the sequence, teaching comes before preaching and preaching comes before healing.

A reception of God’s words is always necessary to bring about healing. Physical healing begins with inner healing; the healing of the heart. This is the secret John reveals in today’s first reading. “All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this, we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.” (1 John 3:24). It takes a lot on our part to give up our old ways but then when we consider what we stand to gain by presenting to Jesus this beautiful gift of repentance, we can see nothing but pure wisdom at play.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may my life itself be my gift to you. Amen

 Bible Study: 1st John 3:22-4:6, Psalm 2 and Matthew 4:12-25).

Fr. Abu