The words of Jesus that stand out in this Sunday’s Gospel reading are, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Repentance is a foundational and essential part of receiving Jesus Christ. We need ongoing repentance to be faithful followers of Jesus.
The word “repentance” comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means a change of heart and mind, and to turn yourself around.
Many of us are familiar with GPS or Google maps. Once we set the direction of our destination in our device and miss it, a voice alerts us to turn around when possible. By the same token, there is that inner voice in our heart that guides us, and we must promptly listen to it. It also tells us to take necessary turns when our ways go farther from where the Lord calls us to be.
Repentance brings us to a state of becoming a renewed person. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun. In the Scriptures, the sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes went out to John in the desert to prepare themselves for the public ministry of Jesus. Confessing their sins, they received the baptism of repentance and conversion to be ready to receive the Lord when He came. They headed to a new life and possessed a new vision and ways of living their lives in serving the Lord. Their lives were enriched with joy and peace.
To follow Jesus is a way of life and more than just a gathering of religious experiences. Being a disciple is living today and every day. Jesus might be telling us, “I know that last year, you were generous to a family experiencing financial difficulty. But that was a year ago, and there are still struggling families around you.” Jesus might remind us, “I know you told your husband or wife how much you loved them on your first wedding anniversary, but that was ten years ago.”
Each day, Jesus challenges us to do something good and sustaining in our faith and life as disciples. St. John the Baptist says we must be a tree that bears good fruit. Without those “good fruits as evidence of your repentance,” as John the Baptist says, our conversion of heart must be suspect.
It is also important to know that repentance is a process. Breaking what we have been accustomed to, including bad habits, is hard. Embarking a new life with the Lord doesn’t mean we become instantaneously different. We must be patient as we begin with a resolution to change and seal it with concrete charitable actions.