Reading I: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
Reading II: 1 John 2:1-5a
Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
… and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Gospel)
“Repent and believe in the good news!” These are the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in Mark’s gospel and they are meant as a summary of the entire gospel. But what do these words mean?
In English, the word “repent” is often misunderstood. It seems to imply that we have already done something wrong, regret it, and now commit ourselves to live in a new way. Repentance, understood in this way, means to live beyond a sinful past. Biblically, this is not quite what is meant. In the gospels, the particular word used for repentance is metanoia. Literally this means to do an about face, to turn around, to face in an entirely new direction. But what direction?
Robert Barron, a young theologian out of Chicago, offers a simple, yet profound, understanding this. In his view, within each of us there are two souls, a little soul (a pusilla anima) and a great soul (a magna anima). On any given day we tend to identify more with one or the other of these and we are a very different person depending upon which soul is reigning within us.
Thus, if I take my identity from my little soul I will inevitably feel bitter and angry. It is here, in the pusilla anima, where I am petty, afraid, aware of my hurts, and constantly nursing the sense of having been cheated and short-changed. In my little soul, I am paranoid and defensive. When I relate to life through it, I am short-sighted, impatient, despairing, and constantly looking for compensation.
But I also have within me a great soul. When I let it reign, I become different person altogether. I am relating out of my great soul at those moments when I am overwhelmed by compassion, when everyone is brother or sister to me, when I want to give of myself without concern of cost, when I am able to carry the tensions of life without a breakdown in my chastity, when I would willingly die for others, and when my arms and my heart would want nothing other than to embrace the whole world and everyone in it.
All of us, I am sure, have had ample experience of both, identifying with the great soul and with the petty soul within us. Sometimes we operate out of one, sometimes out of the other.