Saturday, January 24, 2009

Genuine repentance

FEAST OF ST. PAUL'S CONVERSION (B)
25 January 2009

This Sunday, we shall not only witness Jesus calling some of his apostles, but we shall also hear him appealing to us to repent and believe because the kingdom of God is at hand (cf. Mk. 1: 14-20).

Repentance is not just about one’s display of sorrow. A cursory glance in various dictionaries would reveal us that repentance is equated with regret, remorse, or shame in connection with one’s wrongdoing. Yes, these will do, but they are substantially incomplete.

If we are truly sorry for something, we must carry out certain measures in order to avoid being in circumstances that will make us fall to sin again. Otherwise, repentance is reduced to a mere sham. Fake, in other words.

For a repentance to be sufficient (and if I may add, authentic!) there has to be an about face from sin. There has to be a change of mind concretely expressed in one’s behavior. There has to be conversion.

Perhaps, we know some individuals who try their very best to change their old bad ways. For example, our friends who opt to stop smoking, a classmate who wishes to discipline himself by waking up earlier so as to avoid being late at school.

This Sunday, we are presented with an example of a man who underwent real conversion. In fact, nearly two thousand years after his conversion, he would be hailed as “The Apostle” even if Jesus did not choose him to be part of the Magic Twelve.

I am talking about St. Paul who preached the Gospel to the Gentiles (that is, the non-Israelites).


After that fateful encounter with a blinding light on his way to Damascus, he resolved to change his ways. This change is not merely limited to switching his name from Saul to Paul. The shift goes beyond this as has been evident in the course of life he took after that meeting.