Holy Remorse

Lent is reaching its half-way point – this Thursday we are there.  This season is where Holy Mother Church, and that includes us, looks with a particular intensity within to reach a conversion of heart.  Where each of us, in our own way, turns back towards God and rushes towards Him as the prodigal son does in the parable. And as the prodigal son did in the parable we too must start this return with same remorseful admission ‘Father, I have sinned against you[1]  If we complete our journey this Lenten season without these words then we are run the real risk of failing in our efforts.

St. John Paul the Great wrote in 1980:‘If it is true that sin in a certain sense shuts man off from God, it is likewise true remorse for sins opens up all the greatness and majesty of God, his fatherhood above all, to man’s conscience.  Man remains shut to God so long as the words ‘Father, I have sinned against you,’ are absent from his lips, above all while they are absent from his conscience, from his ‘heart’’[2]

In this writing he talks about the power of these words ‘Father, I have sinned against you’ and how when spoken from our heart we can ‘truly enter the Mystery and Resurrection of Christ, so as to obtain the fruits of Redemption and Grace from them[3]

This is a most important realization for each of us at this half-way point; it is not by our actions, nor by our words, that we fully reap the gifts of Lent – it is by our heart.  We were told this back on Ash Wednesday: ‘“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”[4]

Ultimately, our hope is that by our Lenten practices we can enter into the love of God more fully; that we can invigorate and strengthen our relationship with Love Himself; but our fear is that God will not reciprocate – it is a needless fear.  Joel tells us to rend our hearts and not our garments; he also tells us ‘Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.[5]  God will never reject our heartfelt contrition, He is always there waiting for us. Christ tells us as much in today’s gospel ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.[6]; which He proves this with His life.

Brothers and sisters as we now turn towards Holy Week let’s be guided by the light shining from the resurrection, the light of true love; and hunger for it, desire it above all else.  Let’s strip away the self-built barricades of our sinful and prideful ego and shout from the depths of our hearts ‘Father, I have sinned against you’ and rend our hearts in remorse for failing to return God’s love for us; so that when we come to those days where we walk with the Lord in His passion we can obtain the fruits of Redemption and Grace that St. John Paul the Great wrote about.

—————————————————————————

 

[1] Lk 15:18
[2] St. John Paul the Great 3/16/80 taken from: Prayers and Devotions 365 Daily Meditations p124
[3] ibid
[4] Jl 2:12-13a
[5] Jl 2:13b
[6] Jn 3:16-17

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