Life & Soul

Repentance is a trusting surrender of ourselves to Christ

A detail from Christ at Emmaus, painted by Rembrandt in 1648

St Peter is the principal witness to the Resurrection throughout the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Here the Resurrection was presented as both the climax of Israel’s long history and as a challenge to present and future generations. The same Father who had called his people into being through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had rescued them from a history of sin in the death and Resurrection of his Son. Now he called them to repentance and new life.

Through the same Father we too were called into being, and in baptism were named as his sons and daughters. Our history, like that of ancient Israel, has been disfigured by sin. We, no less than those challenged by Peter at Pentecost, must allow the Resurrection to become the turning point in our lives. Echoing the words of Peter, we have perhaps lived lives without too much reflection on the manner of our living. Like those addressed by Peter, we must allow the power of the Resurrection to change our lives. Its first call is always a summons to repentance.

“Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”

The repentance to which we are called is not a fearful and depressing attempt to reform ourselves. It is the trusting surrender of ourselves to the Christ who creates us anew. “If anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just, he is the sacrifice who takes our sins away. When anyone obeys what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him.”

The Gospel accounts of the Resurrection emphasise different aspects of its mystery. In St Luke’s Gospel, following the appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus showed himself to those who had received this news in Jerusalem. Through them he addressed our own fears and uncertainties.

“Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts arising in your hearts?”

We fear death because it seems to put an impenetrable and final barrier between ourselves and those we love. So it was with those first disciples following the Crucifixion, so much so that when Jesus showed himself to them they thought they were seeing a ghost.

Jesus insisted that they touch his hands and feet, that they share their food with him. Through these simple gestures he showed that in his Resurrection he was more than a pale shadow of what they had loved in the past. He was the fullness of all that they had loved, leading them to the fullness of all that they would become.

This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (17/4/15).

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