as evidence of your repentance

In his novel Love Story, Erich Segal has Jennifer Cavilleri tell Oliver Barrett “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Acknowledgement and acceptance of our faults and failures is both necessary and important, but it is never enough; apologies are never enough; asking for forgiveness is never enough, saying ‘I’m sorry’ is never enough.

When we ask God for His forgiveness for our sins we are required to go beyond simply saying ‘I’m sorry’ for we must be truly repentant, honestly promise to sin no more, avoid the near occasion of sin, and make restitution or penance for the wrongs that we have committed. In other words, we must do more; we must make appropriate changes in our behavior, we must change our lives.

John the Baptist, like Jesus, knew the hearts and minds of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and like Jesus, called them to task for their pride and arrogance. He told them “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” [Mt 3:8]. Matthew used the Greek μετάνόος (metánoeō) in the nuanced meaning to “think life over again,” that is, to make appropriate, necessary changes to one’s life. John was therefore telling those who came to be baptized that they must, in addition to acknowledging their sins, change their lives in significant and positive ways; words without actions will not be enough.

No matter where we are in our lives, there is always room for improvement. Fr. J. Patrick Mullen says that the kind of repentance demanded by John calls for :

  • the sinner to think their life over, and stop sinning,
  • the one no longer sinning, but not doing good either, to begin to live a meritorious life,
  • and the one who is engaged and holy to become saintly.

He goes on to say “In effect, John’s invitation is for all of us to think our lives over and take the next step in our spiritual growth, wherever we are on the spectrum of the Christian life.”

A dear friend asked how he could know that he was doing all that he was supposed to do to live as God wanted him to live. I told him that everyone feels inadequate when standing before God, that no one can ever say “I am worthy.” No matter who we are or how we live our lives we can and must always do more, for that is what God requires of us. It is never easy; it was never intended to be so. Sinner or saint, we always have to do more, to try harder to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Mt 5:48].

The first step is to stop sinning or fervently and deliberately turn away from a sinful life. Like an addict, the first step is acknowledgement and acceptance. The next step is to live in the good, to change the very act of living, to seek out the positive and the holy. And finally, when your life exemplifies the holy, you must rise up to the challenge of becoming a saint.

It was often told that Blessed John Paul II sought out and received the sacrament of reconciliation every week. Someone so holy, so saintly, asked God for forgiveness every week. It is surely something to ponder and consider.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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