“Produce Good Fruit As Evidence of Your Repentance” (Mt 4:8)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The four weeks of the Advent Season are intended for the preparation for Christmas celebration. By “preparation” we mean that great efforts should be done for a decisive turning point in our life, a radical change of our way of thinking, speaking and acting, a profound conversion—the going back to God—from darkness to light, from sin to holiness.
How to make such a great change? How to start such deep conversion?
Let us listen to Saint John the Baptist:
“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”
Based on what Saint John said, we have first to begin with repentance. The process of authentic conversion itself starts with the sincere and courageous recognition of wrongdoing.
Conversion must be sincere because without free and true decision to say “this is my fault” it stops being conversion and remains a mere pretence. There should be the truth between what I say and what I really mean.
Conversion must be courageous because it is not easy at all for people to admit the reality that they have done something wrong, and it is much more difficult for them to say “sorry” and ask for forgiveness, in particular when the wrongdoer used to be highly respected as a beacon of moral standards.
In year 2000, during the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II publically asked the world for forgiveness for the sins committed by the children of the Church. That act of repentance might not be welcomed by some Catholic Christians, not even by high ranking leaders of the Church, considering it as too much humiliating. But that act, sincerely performed earned the Church heartily reconciliation and admiration from both Christian communities and people of other faiths.
Now, we go to the most crucial point of repentance: we should show people the evidence of our willingness to give up our wrong way, our sinful life, and take the new path for a better life. The new things, new changes to the positive direction clearly seen in our daily activities are fruit of our conversion to God. Saint John the Baptist made a list of what people have to do for the detachment from sinfulness and the renewal of their way of life. The list ranges from repenting of the sins against social justice, the sin of power abuse and the thirst for wealth, to the restoration of just and human society.
Taking Chapter 3, verses from 10 to 14, we read, “And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
It is now our turn how to answer the urgent call by Saint John the Baptist, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”
Fr. Francis Nguyen, O.P.