helping believers to have the experience in their life.
3. "Repent, and Believe in the Gospel"
However, we must ask ourselves a crucial question: who is the author of this message? If it were the Apostle Paul, then those would be right who say that he, not Jesus, is the founder of Christianity. But he is not the author; he does no more than express in elaborated and universal terms a message that Jesus expressed with his typical language, made of images and parables.
Jesus began his preaching saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). With these words he already taught justification through faith. Before him, to be converted meant to "go back" (as indicated by the Hebrew term shub); it meant to return to the broken Covenant, through a renewed observance of the law. "Return to me [...], return from your evil ways," God said through the prophets (Zechariah 1:3-4; Jeremiah 8:4-5).
Consequently, to be converted has a primarily ascetic, moral and penitential meaning and it is affected by changing one's conduct of life. Conversion is seen as a condition for salvation; the meaning is: Repent and you will be saved; repent and salvation will come to you. This is the predominant meaning that the word conversion has on the lips of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 3:4-6). However, on Jesus' lips this moral meaning takes second place (at least at the beginning of his preaching) in regard to a new meaning, unknown until now. Manifested also in this is the epochal leap that is verified between the preaching of John the Baptist and that of Jesus.
To be converted no longer means to return to the ancient Covenant and the observance of the law, but to make a leap forward, entering into the new Covenant, to seize this Kingdom that has appeared, to enter it through faith. "Repent and believe" does not mean two different and successive things, but the same action: repent, that is believe; repent by believing! "Prima conversion fit per fidem," St. Thomas Aquinas would say, the first conversion consists in believing.
God took the initiative of salvation: He has made his Kingdom come; man must only accept, in faith, God's offer and live the demands afterward. It is like a king who opens the door of his palace, where a great banquet is ready, and, being at the door, invites all passersby to enter, saying: "Come, all is ready!" It is the call that resounds in all the so-called parables of the Kingdom: The hour much awaited has struck, take the decision that saves, do not let the occasion slip by!
The Apostle says the same thing with the doctrine of justification through faith. The only difference is due to that which has occurred, in the meantime, between the preaching of Jesus and that of Paul: Christ was rejected and put to death for the sins of men. Faith in the Gospel ("believe in the Gospel"), is now configured as faith "in Jesus Christ," "in his blood" (Romans 3:25).
What the Apostle expresses through the adverb "freely" ("dorean") or "by grace," Jesus said with the image of receiving the Kingdom as a child, namely, as a gift, without putting forward merits, appealing only to the love of God, as children count on the love of their parents.
For some time exegetes have discussed whether or not one must continue to talk about the conversion of St. Paul; some prefer to speak of a "call," rather than conversion. There are those who would like the outright abolition of the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, as conversion indicates a detachment and a giving up of something, and a Jew who converts, as opposed to a pagan, must not give up anything, he must not pass from idols to the worship of the true God.
It seems to me we are before a false problem. In the first place, there is no opposition between conversion and call: a call implies a conversion; it does not replace it, as grace does not replace freedom. However, above all we have seen that evangelical conversion is not about denying something or going back, but a reception of something new, a leap forward. To whom was Jesus speaking when he said: "Repent and believe in the Gospel"? Was he not speaking perhaps of the Jews? The Apostle referred to this same conversion with the words: "But when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed" (2 Corinthians 3:16).
In this light Paul's conversion appears to us as the model of true Christian conversion that consists first of all in accepting Christ, in "turning" to him through faith. It is a finding, not a giving up. Jesus does not say: A man sold all he had and began to look for a hidden treasure; he said: A man found a treasure and because of this sold everything.
4. A Lived ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christmas / Advent News
- A Layman's Plea for Tolerance of Catholics
- A Question For The Christmas Season: Do You Want To Become A Saint?
- Every Leader Supporting Abortion is Herod, Every Child Killed a Holy Innocent
- Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr, Calls us to Reflect on the Gift of Deacons
- Fr. Sly on the Feast of St John in the Octave of Christmas
- Welcoming the Birth of the Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus was an Embryonic Person
- Merry Christmas: Love is Born on Christmas Morn and the World is Born Anew
- Pope St Leo the Great: Christian, Remember Your Dignity
- Pope Benedict XVI: If God's Light is Extinguished, Man's Divine Dignity is also Extinguished
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?