ELEMENTS OF REPENTANCE

Saturday, 29th Week in Ordinary Time           

            “If you do not repent, you will all perish…”

            Jewish belief was that whatever evil befell people was punishment for sin. The more a person had to suffer, the greater their sin must have been! Jesus rejects this simplistic notion. Instead he emphasizes repentance.

            Repentance is not just feeling guilty for doing something wrong or feeling guilty for not trying to be a better person or saying “Sorry” and promising not to repeat the wrong. Those are all part of repentance or ‘preliminaries’ to it, but they are not the essence of repentance at all. Because repentance is not just emotion and empty words. Repentance is a deep change: a change of mind, heart and behavior.

            According to Pope Francis, repentance or conversion involves three things: a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling, and a new way of doing. The Gospel of Jesus must penetrate our minds, our hearts and our hands. We must allow it to change the way we think – that is, we must realize what really matters most in life. We must allow it to change the way we feel – that is, we must be moved towards a new life direction. We must allow it to change the way we act – that is, we must act according to the gospel values.

            St. Alphonsus Ligouri talks about repentance as consisting of at least three important elements.

            First, repentance means we are sorry to God because we have sinned against him. We are not sorry just because we got caught or just because we are going to be punished. We are not sorry primarily because we have hurt someone else. We are sorry because of God, because he loves us more than we realize and we have played a dirty trick on him when we sinned.

            Second, repentance means honest acceptance of our sinfulness. We don’t play games with God; we don’t make excuses. Every psychologist will tell you that the beginning of all real conversion and change is the acceptance of what we have done. Only in truth can repentance begin.

            Third, repentance means a turning from and turning to. We must turn away from the sin that is represented by the world and the self, and we must turn to God and his kingdom. Turning away is only half of the repentance and conversion process. The other half is to turn towards something better that will bring us closer to God.

            “If you do not repent, you will all perish…”           

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