Repent?

If you were to survey 1,000 Catholics and ask them, “What was the central dictate given by Christ in His preaching” you would probably discover a wide array of answers.

Some might say, “Love one another.” Others may assert, “Come, and follow me.” Some may submit, “Love your enemies and do good to those you persecute you.” While it is true that Jesus did say all of the aforementioned things, the central dictate in His preaching was simply, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” And yet, this is among the most overlooked and ignored directives issued by Our Lord. We may ask, “Why?”

The answer may lie in the fact that many people neither recognize their personal sinfulness nor their need for repentance. While we may conjecture that most people may admit of their need for deeper faith (i.e., belief in the gospel), the idea of repentance is less attractive.

After all, popular psychology books warn us sternly not to focus on such “negative” issues as sin for fear that such thoughts may lower our self-esteem or cause us to wallow in misery. The Catholic understanding, meanwhile, is dramatically different. Catholics understand sin in terms of the meritorious redemption of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

Sin is never understood in isolation. Rather, sin is always placed subordinate to what Jesus accomplished for us at Calvary, since sin and death were vanquished by Our Lord.

And yet, it is not enough to recognize what Jesus accomplished through His passion, death and resurrection. We must participate in its merits by the lives we lead. It is not enough to make claims on the merits of Jesus, without any conversion and repentance on our part. Repentance is always preceded by an acknowledgement of sinfulness and this acknowledgement is always preceded by the virtue of humility to recognize that we are in need of God’s mercy.

The inability to perceive these aforementioned elements may be one of the most serious spiritual malaises plaguing believers today. Pride, the rationalization of one’s sins, infrequent sacramental confession and the lack of a daily examination of conscience only exacerbate a very serious spiritual problem.

Repentance forces the penitent to engage the reality of who he is and who he has become in light of God’s perfection. The admission of guilt is never easy for anyone but it is among the most liberating experiences imaginable. After all, it is not as if God doesn’t already know our sins.

We never fool our omniscient Creator. Repentance seeks to free us from the bondage of pride and the facades we build to convince ourselves that we do not offend God by our sinfulness. Rather than lead us to despair or despondency, repentance frees us to receive God’s graces and to engage the reality of our lives. When we are less full of ourselves and more filled with His light and truth, we begin to experience the freedom and glory of living as God’s children. This is what Jesus desires for each of us. May the spirit of repentance free us to love God as we ought.

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  • Grace Harman

    This is obvious with the pro-abort politicians and even some “higher-ups” in the Church. Like the scribes and pharisees. they don’t understand their own errors- or claim they are on the right side of the controversy. (Do any of us see our own sins and faults? If we did we would try harder to get away from them.) That’s why it’s a kindness to point out serious faults to people while they can still stop and save their souls before they die and it’s too late.

  • noelfitz

    Thank you Fr Magat for a great article that gets to the heart of the Christian message.

    When Jesus started his public life his main point was repentance.

    “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mar 1:15 NRS).

    Fr Magat correctly linked repentance with conversion. In fact the word translated as ‘repentance’ also means ‘be converted’ or ‘change one’s mind’.

    However I am worried about the comment of Grace Harman in her condemnation of “higher-ups” in the Church. Is she referring to the Pope, bishops and priests? The Church is hierarchical and we are obliged to have loyalty to the “higher-ups”.

    God bless,

    NoelFitz.
    _________________________________________________

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.
    _________________________________________________

  • Grace Harman

    (I meant higher up from us in the pews.)
    Bishops sometimes contradict other Bishops (as with the Terri Schiavo case) OR the teachings of the Magisterium. Some priests appear to support euthanasia, abortion, or homosexuality. Some priests & theologians say Jesus didn’t know He was God. etc. These things hurt the Church and confuse the people in the pews. (There are Catholics who don’t know contraception is a sin?)
    When Bishops contradict the Pope they give scandal. When priests and bishops reject Church teachings -as happened with Humanae Vitae- it is a terrible tragedy because everyone is led astray. That confusion on traditional Church teaching led to abortion on demand. Millions of innocents were killed and are still being killed all over the world.
    I know we must love those who are “gay” – but THEY need to know that their lifestyle is deadly to their soul and they must learn to live a chaste lifestyle to please God and protect their souls from sin. Priests and Bishops must teach the truth to help those who are affected by this kind of problem to choose to avoid sin. Traditional families are the foundation for society, NOT “alternate lifestyles”. “Political correctness” is NOT the answer.
    There are also Bishops who support political leaders who support abortion and this gives scandal and causes harm to all of society. Giving the pro-abort politicians Communion abuses the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope said so.

  • noelfitz

    Hi Grace
    many thanks for your reply.

    It is not up to Catholics to accept or reject their bishop.

    The bishop is appointed by the pope and, as a successor of the apostles, the faithful owe him obedience.

    I think it is an open question whether Jesus, as man, knew he was God.

    I would like to know about the bishops who contradict the pope.

    The pope said one can vote for pro-abortion politicians for “proportionate reasons”. We already had a vigorous debate about this.

    ” When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/sep/08091604.html.

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    Proportionate reasons … so, what reasons are proportionate to the murder of helpless innocents?

  • Grace Harman

    Abortion is murder of innocents -that cries to God for vengeance. It has killed more people than all wars and diseases. (It’s toll is estimated at 50 million a YEAR worldwide now, and the U.N. and our president want this to increase!) Euthanasia is murder too. There is nothing “proportionate” and our country seems to have been hi-jacked by the baby killers. -because people voted for “the economy” “choice”, and “race”. But what do you expect? That kind of murder was legalized 36 years ago and not enough people questioned it. This is NOT love of neighbor and we haven’t repented it -yet. Why didn’t the Bishops make a louder outcry -sooner? and why do Catholics not understand it’s wrong to support or have abortions? (A recent “40 Days” story: A protestant minister was passing out literature at a killing clinic. A woman and her daughter going into it, refused his info. saying, “We’re Catholic.”) SHAME!

  • noelfitz

    I do not think it is necessary to say in this forum that abortion is wrong. We are all agreed on this.

    God bless,

    NoelFitz.
    _________________________________________________

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.
    _________________________________________________

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