Repent and believe in the Gospel
As every good Christian, I have to keep asking myself where do I come from, what is my identity and what is the basis of my belief in Jesus Christ as my Savior.
As I enter our chapel and see the cross in front of the altar, my eyes gaze on Jesus, nailed on it. And I ask myself, “Why had this righteous man die in this painful way?” “If he defended the rights of the people who went astray, then why did have to die on the cross?”
Searching for an answer, some childhood memories come to my mind. I remember that, as a young boy, once going to school with a friend of mine, along the way, we talked about Jesus. He said to me that Jesus is our Master; that He loved his disciples and taught them many things; and that Jesus teaches us how to imitate him. Furthermore, my friend said that if we wanted to be good students we should also imitate Him…, adding that he had learned those things from the Catechism. At that time I knew nothing about Catechism, so right there in my school, I began to learn Catechism. I enjoyed my classes very much and was interested in learning more and more about Jesus, who was called Master. However, one thing that I never forget in my life is what our Catechist taught us about love: how to love our parents, friends, and neighbors. This was the fruit of those classes focused on love: “Children, you have to love your father and mother and do your duty as a child, and don’t forget to love your friends and neighbor as well.” From those words, I began to understand how much Jesus loves us, and his teaching on “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Thus, whenever I look at the cross and feel the immeasurable love with which Jesus loves us, I come to understand also that we are human beings, sinners, too weak and limited. And that, even in our sins, He still loves us and saves us. After all, He came into this world to bring us back from sinfulness to righteousness.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ messenger, cried out loudly in the wilderness “Repent and prepare yourselves, the Lord and Savior is near at hand.” Many people believed in his preaching, repented, and were baptized, while many others did not. Jesus came after him and began his ministry with teaching and preaching in the synagogues, calling those who were listening to him to repent from their evil ways and to do good. Through his preaching, many people believed and public sinners repented. But Jesus’ never-ending love went on for those going astray, to the point of giving up his life for his people, accepting death on the cross as a criminal. He accepted this pain out of love, forgiving those who persecuted him and nailed him to the cross: “Father forgives them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). On that cross, carried on his shoulders on the way to Calvary… we put all our sins.
Jesus is an example for us. He teaches us how to forgive when we are in a bad situation, and to pray for the salvation of all. He made no distinction between Catholics or non-Catholics, Christians or pagans, believers or non-believers. He put us in the same boat; that is why He became truly the Savior of the world.
We say we are sinners yes! But this does not make us lose our faith and trust in Him as our Savior. The covenant that God made with the chosen people of Israel (“I will make you my people and I will be your God” (Jer 30:22)) reaches us, as we are all children of God from the beginning of creation, “created in the image of God” (Gen 1:26-28). This is truly manifest by Jesus Christ who came to save all the people in the world, not just the chosen people.
On Ash Wednesday, as we receive the ashes marked on our foreheads, we are reminded that we are “dust”. It is important for us to know our identity as human beings, and to become aware of where we are coming from. God made us equal: we share the same origin and dignity as children of God. Henceforth, we are not to allow any discrimination, racism, hatred, etc., reign among us… White or black skins, different cultures, and countries, these elements complement each other and make the world more beautiful, as we share the same humanity and we are the proudest God’s creatures. God loves us all with the same tenderness, based not in our color, but in the fact of being his children.
Author: Bro. Cesar Lino De Sousa Ximenes OP.
Macao, 17 February 2021