[Excerpted from the March/April 2018 issue of Emmanuel. Brother John R. Barker, OFM, is a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint John the Baptist (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Assistant Professor of Old Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.]
The readings this week draw our attention to a topic that we may have thought we had left behind in Lent: repentance. The structure and emphases of the liturgical year might lead us to think (if only implicitly) that repentance belongs to Lent and to Easter belongs . . . well, something else.
But we are reminded this week that repentance is also a part of Easter because it is a response to the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ. Just as Israel entered into the covenant relationship with God at Mount Sinai in joyful gratitude for what God had done for them in the Exodus, so Christians come to see the call to repentance as a response to what God has done for us in Christ.
In his speech to the people, Peter announces that although the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had called for the death of Jesus, they had done so out of ignorance (we are reminded here of what Jesus says from the cross in Luke: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” [23:34]). But now they know better, because they have heard the proclamation that Jesus was the Christ, who has been vindicated and raised from the dead. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” Yes, the people “denied the holy and righteous One” and put to the death “the author of life.” But God has done something with this, and now the power of the resurrection is brought to bear on God’s mercy ― the past is the past, and now is the time to repent of the past and move into the future converted and forgiven.