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Two Ways to Repentance
Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
“Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Opening Prayer: Thank you Jesus, for coming to save sinners, because I am a poor sinner who needs saving! Open my heart to your wise and truthful word.
- Popular Opinion: Jesus commented in today’s Gospel reading about just how quickly popular opinion can change. First, John the Baptist made people uncomfortable because they thought his message of conversion was too radical. They found some reason to discredit him by spreading rumors that he was possessed. When Jesus came, he made people uncomfortable because he ate and drank with the people he came to save, namely sinners. So they discredited Jesus by spreading rumors, calling him a glutton and a drunk. These days, everyone seems to have very strong opinions about a myriad of political and social issues. We know how divisive and fickle popular opinion can be, but we are still sometimes strangely compelled to live up to it. I ask myself, do I seek balance and wisdom by praying with the word of Christ, or do I let myself get swayed by popular opinion?
- Comfort Zones: Both John and Jesus made the crowds uncomfortable by their preaching. The fasting and repentance John the Baptist advocated was not popular, easy, or fun. The penitents who followed John’s call sought spiritual change, which challenged observers to reflect on their own lives, drawing them out of their comfort zone. Jesus fraternized with outcasts and the Pharisees were scandalized. They judged Jesus instead of trying to imitate him because eating with tax-collectors and sinners was outside their comfort zone. Living as a Christian often isn’t comfortable. I ask myself, am I too comfortable in my faith or am I being asked to step out of my comfort zone in some way on behalf of Christ?
- Repentance, Two Ways: The theme of this Gospel is repentance. Both John and Jesus sought to bring about repentance in the hearts of sinners. John called for repentance outwardly and publicly. He drew great crowds who prepared their hearts for the Lord’s coming. Jesus’s call for repentance was often interior and individual. He looked into hearts and forgave their sins. Jesus gave the Pharisees who complained about his methods this reasoning: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners” (Luke 5:31-32). I ask myself, how am I responding to the invitation by the Great Physician to repent?
Conversing with Christ: Jesus I want to see reality the way you see it. I know that other people have ways of doing things that are different from my own. Help me to not judge them rashly. Fill my mouth with praise for you and for others, especially when I feel like complaining. May I always be encouraging towards others, never judgmental. May I be constantly reminded of my own need for repentance and conversion.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will catch myself when I’m about to complain and turn the moment into an opportunity to praise and thank you interiorly.
For Further Reflection: Read this reflection about Why Jesus Ate with Tax Collectors and Sinners.
Written by Carey Boyzuck