2nd Sun C Advent
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
There is a phrase in this Sunday’s Gospel that gives us a crucial insight into repentance. The term is ‘appropriate fruit’. Repentance is more that feeling sorry or guilty about past actions, more than feeling sad about the mess our lives are in. It is a dynamic force producing change not only in mind and heart, but also in the actions of our lives. Sorrow, guilt and sadness are only feelings in initial stage of this process. Staying in them for too long may indeed vitiate the transformation that repentance is supposed to bring. Imagine a boy swinging a stone in a slingshot. He twirls it round and round to gain the momentum needed for the stone to fly away. At some stage he has to let go and stop twirling. Negative feelings about our poor behaviour are only useful if they give us the momentum to move away from destructive behaviour. So how is this done?
Repentance is a transformation of heart and mind. After experiencing the bad feelings of guilt and sorrow, we need to get our minds into gear: think about what we have done and the ramifications our actions have had in our own and other people’s lives. This is not done to make ourselves feel worse but rather to gain understanding of just where our failure lies. Quite often what appears to be sin or failure is only an outcome from a deeper and more serious flaw. Seeing this we may be dismayed but, more likely, we may feel empowered. As we go deeper, we may discover the root cause to a variety of negative behaviours. Having made this discovery, we may not realise it but we have hit gold. Like most gold, it is extracted only with difficulty. We need guidance from God and from others, we need thought and determination to continue the process of change, we need humility and grace. A guiding force throughout this process is to imagine how we would or could behave when we are freed from this sinful tendency. The transformation of repentance results in the freedom to love, even in difficult circumstances. This is ‘appropriate fruit’ to which John refers.