A Lenten Reflection On Repentance
from those dark paths we have walked for so many years, setting off on a journey toward a new horizon, one which glows with eternal Light.
"Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God" (Joel 2:12).
When we return to God with our whole heart, we weep and mourn; for we see with stark clarity those numerous times—those times of sin—when we failed to love God. The rending of our heart drives us toward a desire to do penance; for we see our lowliness in the divine light of fervent conversion, which clearly reveals all our attachment to sin.
St. Jerome lived an ascetic and holy life, a life of deep interior conversion in which his understanding of the reality of sin was illuminated in the divine light of the Holy Spirit. As a result, he made this somewhat disturbing comment regarding the general judgement at Christ´s second coming: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, the dreadful trumpet of the last day seems always sounding in my ears: ´Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!´"
Yet the most profound call to repentance is experienced as we go before the Cross this Lenten season, as we kneel there along with our Blessed Mother, as we gaze upon our loving Savior who gave entirely of himself for love of us—even though we are sinners. See our Redeemer there, crucified at the Place of the Skull; battered, bloodied and dying; the weight of his body harshly pulling on those terrible, cold spikes driven through his innocent, sacred flesh. Though the pain was excruciating, Jesus received no consolation from the crowd who surrounded him; rather, they shouted and mocked: "He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel!" (Mt. 27:42). Do we also refuse our Lord consolation by withholding from him a truly repentant and loving heart?
Before repentance is possible, we must journey to the well of prayer, and seek life-giving water. We must humble ourselves before our All-Holy and gracious Creator who has loved us even before we were conceived in our mother´s womb. Let us seek to know the gift of God.
"If you knew the gift of God!" The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (CCC No. 2560).
What does our loving Savior say to us in the midst of his immense Passion, fastened in a most cruel way to the wood of the Cross? "I thirst" (Jn. 19:28). It might seem Christ is speaking of physical thirst only. However, from his divine and human lips he utters a profound statement of unfathomable dimension far beyond the physical. Our Lord thirsts for us. The meaning of the Cross is God´s incomprehensible thirst for love. Filled with an unexplainable and radical love for you and me, Jesus Christ thirsts for our repentance, conversion and prayer; he thirsts for our soul.
F. K. Bartels believes his Catholic faith is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given him. He is managing editor of catholicpathways.com, and a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Repentance, Fred Bartels, lent, Christian, penance, sin, forgiveness, freedom
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