The Path of Repentance

Many times in our rushed day-to-day existence we have the tendency to rush along, and in moments of grace we lift our eyes to heaven with desire to walk closer with God. It is these moments that our hearts are open to reform our lives.

For those of us who work in pastoral ministries, we encounter souls in these moments. When we do, we can point them on the right path with a little help from Saint John Chrysostom. In his homily, De Diabolo Tentatore (2,6: PG 49, 263-264), he writes:

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified. For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: I said: I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart. Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance: condemnation of your sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For, though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your wrath, be humble, pray diligently and condemn your own sins; poverty is no hindrance. Poverty is not an obstacle to our carrying out the Lord’s bidding, even when it comes to that path of repentance which involves giving money (almsgiving, I mean). The widow proved that when she put her two mites into the box!

Now that we have learned how to heal these wounds of ours, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today, let us take courage then, and take up Chrysostom’s path of repentance. In our own walking of this path we may find others on the road who will take up the journey too because of our example.

Have a blessed day.

Related posts:

Why Go to Confession
Stumbling Blocks

Third Sunday of Lent: What do We Thirst For?

Third Sunday of Lent – Jesus meets the Samaritan Woman at the well (John 4:4-42).

The image is clear. It’s the heat of the day, Jesus had been traveling and sat down beside a well to rest, and a woman comes along to collect some water. Jesus puts all cultural barriers aside (He is a Jew; she is a Samaritan. He is a man; she is a woman, living in a culture were these differences don’t mix), and asks her for a drink. What unfolds is a dialog between Jesus and the Samaritan woman that leads her to believe in Him, and she brings almost everybody in her town to believe as well.

Backing up a bit, the scene of Jesus asking the woman for a drink, stays with me.

“Give me a drink.”

Jesus’ thirst can be looked at on a different levels: physically, he was walking, it was midday, and he needed water to quench his thirst. The woman complied.

But his thirst goes out to the soul of the woman, too.

She comes to the well at the hottest time of the day, when others won’t be around, which suggests she is excluded from the ordinary life of the community. Reading on in the Gospel narrative, Jesus offers her something she doesn’t expect: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus explains, “but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

“Give me this water,” she asks, her mind is still thinking of the physical reality of needing to come and draw water day after day, “so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus leads her beyond her physical need for water to a deeper level of understanding. He reads her heart back to her, revealing the complexity of her relationships. She is a woman with five former husbands, and currently is with a man who is not her husband.

What is she thirsty for? Her thirst is for relationship – for love.

This is what Jesus is striving toward; to help her realize her true thirst – a true love to be found in God alone:

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship to Father in Spirit and truth: and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

His words remind her of the coming of the Messiah, “the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Jesus replies, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

At that, she leaves her water jar behind and goes into the village to tell the people about Jesus, “Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

She had gone to to the well thirsty for water. Following her encounter with Jesus, she left her old ways of doing things there with her water jar. Her thirst had changed; she now desired to share what she found with those of the town who held her in no esteem. The fact that they listened to her is a sign that she was transformed, and through Jesus, was again part of the community. More importantly, she had a taste of the Living Water that is found only in a relationship with God.

The application of this Gospel leads us to ask, “And us? What do we thirst for?”

It is easy to confuse our true needs with imagined ones. Just as the woman sought love through her numerous relationships, it is all too easy to seek to take care of our needs with things that only satisfy us superficially. Think about it. What do you long for? What occupies your thoughts? What are you working towards? Is it a longing for the Eternal good, for ‘Living Water’, or for the Temporal?

Jesus waits at the well for us too, thirsty to speak to our hearts, that we might leave our jars of self-made longing behind, and desire instead that which God alone offers us.


Mass Readings for Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A:

1st Reading: Exodus 17:3-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9
2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42


Pope Benedict: “God sent Jesus to quench man’s thirst for eternal life”

Bible Study: St Thomas the Apostle Parish: Third Sunday of Lent

Per i miei amici italiani:

In the Habit: Forgiveness – A Way Home

The Latest in the “In the Habit” Series, sharing my experiences that have confirmed the need for the Religious Habit in the world today:

One beautiful morning a friend of mine invited me for coffee after Mass. It had been a long week, and getting caught up with a friend was a nice way to finish it. We talked about the things that we saw in our own spheres of influence that needed prayer, writing down each other’s requests as we sipped our coffees. When it was time to go, my friend offered me a ride back home. It was such a nice day, I really wanted to walk and pray along the one-mile stretch of road.

Starting out down the street, I asked the Lord to help me see what he wants me to see, that I might be a witness of His love…Approaching the next intersection, there next to the traffic light, stood two high-school aged boys. One of them called out to me from a distance, a greeting I couldn’t make out.  As I came close…I could see in his face that something wasn’t right.

Continue reading Forgiveness – A Way Home