Jesus did not tell everyone to repent. He told them to prepare for a better future.

Monday, 1/7/13

I would like to draw your attention to a meaningful word in the first reading, and to another  meaningful word in the Gospel.

The meaningful word in the first reading is remain. St. John wrote, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit whom he gave us.” Together the word remain and the similar word abide appear fifty times in John’s Gospel.

As kids in our catechisms we learned there were two kinds of grace: Actual Grace and Sanctifying Grace. I once asked my father what God’s grace meant to him, and he said, “It is like a spiritual vitamin pill to help you do things right.” That is a rough explanation of Actual Grace, but Sanctifying Grace is something entirely different. It is God living in us, and our living in God. John’s Gospel and his Letters principally tell us about this Sanctifying Grace.

The meaningful word in the Gospel is the word repent. Matthew summarized the preaching of Jesus as, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I want to point out that this is a poor translation of what Matthew quoted Jesus as saying. Now, to repent means to blame oneself for past misdeeds. The Greek word Matthew quoted Jesus as saying was metanolia which literally means “Turn one’s thinking around.” It looks not to the past, but to the future. What Jesus asked people to do was to put the past behind them, and to make a fresh start.

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