Advent: A murderer’s conversion

Published November 28, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD


Fr. Bel San Luis

Here is a test for you. You are sleeping and then dreaming. A hold-upper is running after you. You turn sideways, but every side you turn to, you find another guy holding a knife coming after you. Too scared, you don’t know where to run to. You’re blocked. How can you escape now? The answer is very simple – wake up!


Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church’s liturgical calendar. The call is to “wake up” (Rom 13:11) or “hoy gising,” in local parlance.

It does not mean that we are literally in a state of dormition. That reminds me of that quip: “Some people are working hard; others are hardly working.” “Waking up” in the gospel means rising from spiritual slumber and laziness. In short, it is a call for renewal, pagbabago in local parlance.


As we enter Advent, the church’s “New Year,” we would do well to pause and ponder where our life is heading to? Am I making any progress or retrogression? Do I realize how time flies? But most importantly, am I making a change for the better or for the worse?


I came across a true story about an escaped convict from Devil’s Island, the penal colony off the French Guiana coast. The man was apprehended and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with a murder in Marseilles. While in prison, he suffered remorse of conscience for his crime and in reparation, since he was a doctor, he devoted the remaining years of his life to curing the sick in the island.


When he died at 72, several hundred people gathered to pay their last respects to the man who had done so much to heal their physical illnesses.

From a murderer, he became a healer and a hero. It happened because the man woke up to the urgent call of spiritual conversion.


He left behind as legacy not the crime he had done but the good he imparted in the remaining years of his life.

How about you? When you leave this world, what legacy will you leave behind? Will it be one of vices, selfishness, corrupt leadership or one of compassion, generosity, charity, honesty?


Our undesirable traits are not only contrary to Christ’s teachings, but also have a negative effect on our national life.

For instance, the cause of national stagnation and economic retrogression is traced to our negativistic traits: Graft and corruption, lack of discipline, greed, to mention some.

To paraphrase what the Greek philosopher Plato said, “Poverty (being poor) consists not in the decrease of the country’s wealth, but in the increase of leaders’ greed.”


Hoy, gising! Wake up! Like what that murderer doctor did, examine where you have failed and start to reform. That’s the message of Advent. And that’s the best way to prepare for Christmas, too.


The lighter side. A man approached his priest-friend and bragged, “Father, I got rid of my vices.” “How did you do it?” the priest replied. “I stopped drinking through will power; gambling? will power; smoking? will power.” The priest said, “How about womanizing?” “Power failure,” he said sheepishly.

“But I’m trying hard to overcome it, father.”


We may have been slaves to some sin in the past, but we can rise up from our sins. We can change. There’s always hope.


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Those who wish to help may chip in an amount or sponsor a seminarian’s schooling for one year. Remember: Nothing is more noble than to nurture the vocation of future priests and missionaries.

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