If we think about it, Jesus was acutely aware that the “Evil One” would try to “steal” souls from God and destroy life. This is why Jesus says that he, Jesus, came to bring new life to his sheep and to have that new life more abundantly (e.g., Jn 10:10). But there is a barrier to this new life, and that is the personal and community sinfulness which we place between ourselves and God. Peter and the apostles were well aware of this barrier, so we hear Peter in today’s first reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19) calling for repentance and a change in the direction of our lives, to remove this barrier of sin.
It is crucial to realise that we need to deal with this sin before new life can come into our hearts. Unfortunately, our first reading today stops in mid-sentence. Listen to the full sentence: “Now you must repent and return to God so that your sins may be wiped out. …” (v. 19,). That refreshing new life is there, ready and waiting to be delivered by the Author of Life to all who accept it through repentance and by improving lifestyles.
Finally, if you think St. Luke (and all the other evangelists) “harp” on the subject of repentance, it’s well to remember that the very first words out of Jesus’ mouth in his public ministry were about the urgent need for repentance (Mark 1:15). Maybe our modern day preachers should remind us regularly about this call for action.
To believe in Jesus and his call to repentance first requires a death to selfishness, that persistent barrier between us and God. Christ cannot be formed in us unless we humble ourselves through the journey called “conversion.” The result of our daily conversion and recommitment is “new life in Christ” through regular prayer and an increased commitment to the values of the Gospel.