St. Maximus the Confessor once wrote: 'God's will is to save us, and nothing please him more than our coming back to Him in true repentance'
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.
GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) - As Catholics recite the daytime prayer midmorning antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours, "The time of penance has come, the time to atone for our sins and seek our salvation," the Lenten call which beckons our return to the Lord is voiced from the lips of the faithful within the Catholic Church.
Lent is a season which invites Catholics and other Christians around the world to kneel before the base of the Cross, meditate upon the sins we have committed which caused our Savior´s suffering, and enter into a period of profound conversion and change. For this reason, Lent is a time of atonement and penance, a period in which we acknowledge our sinfulness, turn away from our past life toward a life with Christ, and embrace the call to holiness. In order to fully enter into such a call, fervent repentance is necessary.
However, in what is often a materialist culture whose secular doctrine persistently encourages the practice of overindulgence in pleasures, entertainment and worldly comforts, the true meaning of repentance is often distorted, watered-down or all together lost.
Further, atonement for one´s sins and penance—which are integral and necessary aspects of repentance—are often deemed "unnecessary and burdensome practices of the past" in which only the "unenlightened" participate. Perhaps such an attitude is due, in part, to the fact that these penitential practices involve a measure of voluntary suffering—which is something quite unwelcome in our contemporary world. Thus it is rather easy to give in to the temptation which tells us there is no merit in these sacrificial acts of repentance. But what does it mean to truly repent?
The Greek word for repentance that is used in the Gospel is metanoia, which literally means "to change one´s mind." This "change" of "mind" necessarily entails a profound interior conversion in which we firmly turn from worldly darkness, and embrace a new way of life as Christ´s disciples. Thus repentance is not merely to know of Christ, nor is it a matter of picking and choosing—with an intellectual arrogance—some aspects of our Lord´s teaching while coldly rejecting others; rather, it is a union of mind, heart and soul to the Person of Christ. To repent is to die to Christ, discarding our former way of life in favor of the Way, Truth, and Life that is Christ himself.
In the Old Testament, the prophets continually called the People Israel to repentance in order that the barriers of sin might be removed, allowing God´s blessings to flow forth. The prophets exhorted Israel to real, heart-felt interior conversion whereby one´s whole being would again be focused on God´s will. "Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ez. 18:31). The Lord contrasts repentance or the lack of it with life and death: "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!" (18:32).
In the New Testament, when John the Baptist began preaching in the desert of Judea, he immediately and with urgency went about exclaiming: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Mt. 3:2). In accordance with the prophets who came before him, John reminds us that true repentance will be evidenced by increased virtue: "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance" (3:9); and, as a warning against those who would ignore the call to conversion, John proclaimed: "Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees" (3:10).
After Jesus´ temptation in the desert he "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Lk. 4:14), and from that time on "began to preach and say, ´Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.´" (Mt. 4:17). Our Lord warns us of the serious need for complete, life-changing repentance: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13 -14).
St. Maximus the Confessor wrote, "God´s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance." Christ gave of himself in an indescribably radical way upon the Cross in order that we might begin to understand the depths of God´s love for us, turn back to him with our whole heart, and accept the salvation he offers. Our Lord has unquestionably demonstrated his love. Yet there is a question of love that remains for each of us: "Do I love Christ with my whole being?" Do I radically love God as he radically loves me?
Love must be proven out in action. St. Theresa of Avila wrote, "Christ does not force our will, He takes only what we give Him. But He does not give Himself entirely until He sees we give ourselves entirely to Him." To repent is to give ourselves entirely to the Lord; it is to return 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.
By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Happy birthday to the Catholic Church! Happy birthday to you, who are the body of the Church! LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - We're all familiar with our own birthdays, and we celebrate them because they mark the day of the year in which we entered into this life. ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
We all love to celebrate Easter with brightly colored hard boiled eggs, candy, cute pictures of bunnies and chicks and we all love to gather together to party! Regardless of how you celebrate Easter, don't forget the real reason for the holiday. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for children to find on Easter morning. However, the association between a rabbit and the resurrection of ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, Pope Francis stood before pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square for the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Vatican Radio, the pontiff stood before the packed square to speak of Jesus ... continue reading
By Alex Basile
Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to tomb of her friend and teacher. Fighting back tears and ... continue reading
By Fr. James Farfaglia
With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted. When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of a godless life; we are freed from the unhappiness of a life filled ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all ... continue reading
By Fr. Randy Sly
Just as the Chief Priests and Pharisees gathered with Pilate to plan on keeping the tomb sealed and guarded with Christ inside, many today want to place a stone in the entrance of the Church, to keep him inside again. On Holy Saturday we remember that no matter how ... continue reading
By Michael Terheyden
Pope Francis said something during his first general audience that inspired me to reflect on the suffering Jesus endured during his Passion for the sake of our redemption. He said, "Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross. ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty, he sends a spring of living water from the wound, which the spear opened in His Side. From the wound in Christ's side has come forth the Church, and He has made her His Bride. ... continue reading