By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE need to see the close relationship between our repentance and its effect on our faith. This relationship was highlighted in the Gospel of St. Matthew (12,38-42) where some of the leading Jews at that time asked Christ for a sign.
Christ could not help but reproach them for their lack faith. He said, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
“Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.
“At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”
When we repent and have conversion, when we have a change of heart, giving it to God rather than keeping it to ourselves, then everything in our life will lead us to God. We would not need any more signs. Everything will speak of God.
We have to understand that repentance and conversion is a continuing affair for all of us in this life. We can never say that we are good enough as to need repentance and conversion no more.
We are all sinners, St. John said. And even the just man, as the Bible said, falls seven times in a day. Besides, it is this sense of continuing conversion that would really ensure us that whatever we do, whatever would happen to us, including our failures and defeats, would redound to what is truly good for the parties concerned and for everybody else in general. It will enable us to see the things of God and of men more clearly and objectively.
For this purpose, we have to feel the need to cultivate the virtue of penance. This is just to be realistic about our human condition. It’s not to paint a dark world for ourselves. If we believe in God, we know that our life ought to be bright and cheerful, and that everything, including our mistakes, works out for the good.
But we cannot deny that we have weaknesses. There are temptations around. And in spite of our best efforts, we know that sooner or later we find ourselves falling into sin.
We need to know how to deal with these conditions. We need to find a way to derive some good from them, since if we have hope, some good can always be achieved from them. Precisely, a working spirit of penance would enliven our faith, and together with our faith, our hope and charity would also become more vibrant.
But the virtue of penance goes farther than that. It grows when we put up the necessary defenses against the enemies of our soul and wage a lifelong ascetical struggle. Yes, our life will be and should be a life of warfare, a war of peace and love that will also give us certain consolations in spite of the tension.
And for this penance to be a true virtue, it has to include an indomitable hope that can survive even in the worst of scenarios. In fact, this hope gets stronger the uglier also the warfare gets.