Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Repentance unto Life

Tonight I finished reading a Spanish play called La Barca sin Pescador by Alejandro Casona. (Spoiler alert! Don't read this if you don't want to know the entire plot, including the ending.) It is about a man, Ricardo Jordan, who makes a deal with the devil, signing a contract stating that he would kill a man without blood (the devil says he will take care of the killing part), in exchange for the devil rescuing his fortunes and bringing down his enemy. But when the deed is done Ricardo hears the voice wife of the man who was killed (even though it was in a distant location, the devil took his soul there to witness), and he is haunted by his act.

He finally travels to the town where the murder occurred and becomes acquainted with those involved, growing to love them during his two-week stay. Just as he is about to confess his guilt in the murder, he finds out that someone else actually killed the man. The devil was trying an experiment to see if he could ensnare Ricardo with his willingness to kill, even without the act. At the beginning of the conversation, things seemed hopeless; the devil says that no amount of repentance will save him--his tears and regrets don't do any good. Returning the fortunes Ricardo gained in the deal won't help either, since they became worthless to Ricardo after he realized what he had done.

In the end, Ricardo outwits the devil. He says that he contracted to kill a man, without blood, and that is what he will do: he will spend his life killing the terrible man that he used to be, so that in the end, Ricardo Jordan will have killed Ricardo Jordan himself, fulfilling the contract. The devil admits his defeat, and laments that he had originally come to try to finish taking Ricardo's soul, but in the process led Ricardo to the path of love that allowed him to get it back.

I opened up my scriptures to my current reading spot in Acts chapter 11 verse 18: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

I love how repentance is characterized as a gift from God, and not a punishment, and in light of the play I just read I got to thinking about what exactly "repentance unto life" means. It means more than tears or regret, sackcloth or ashes--in the end, it means being born into a new life, where we leave behind the person that we used to be and start anew. That is what Ricardo committed to do all the rest of his life, and that is what we commit to do through baptism, to put off the natural man and become a saint. The gift of repentance is not just the gift of being forgiven, but it is also the gift of new life where death once had claim. It is the process of resurrecting the soul that was spiritually dead.

The thought of that miracle, which can change everything and bring new life where it once seemed impossible, just fills me up with love and hope and gratitude.

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