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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:

Confession
Miserere
Why Go to Confession
Stumbling Blocks

pietà

Trusting God in Suffering

It seems that of late the Lord has sent a lot more prayer requests my way for people suffering from serious illnesses and disease, particularly of advanced stages of cancer and lymphoma. I hold them in a particular place in my heart and in my daily prayer; perhaps because I have lost three loved ones to cancer. Perhaps because I also know the power of prayer in having members of my family who are cancer survivors. No matter what the illness, it places the family in the crucible of anguish and uncertainty; wanting to trust in God and hope in him, and at the same time, the waiting gives time for our fears and worries creep up to haunt our faith.

In these very moments where faith is attacked by the violent churning of doubt and questioning, our best defense is the simple utterance (perhaps it takes every drop of energy we have):

“Jesus, I trust in You!”

One of my go-to scripture passages when the siege of or worry waits outside my door:

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

That one’s a bit long for me to remember verbatim, but I have memorized this shorter one from the Prophet Isaiah 26:3:

“You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind rests on You, because he trusts in You.”

HEALING THE MAN BORN BLINDThe word of God in the Bible never promises that the faithful will not experience hardship and suffering. We can just open to the Book of Job and find the contrary to be true. Job in his faithfulness was allowed by God to be tested and tormented by Satan. In order to understand our own sufferings we need to ask why this was so. Jesus himself gives us the answer in this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John 9:1-41, a narrative of Jesus healing a man blind from birth:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

It is only natural when one is has no choice but to deal with an infirmity to ask, “why me?” In itself, this is not a bad question, but it needs to be placed in a broader context, that of an invitation by God to be part of the revelation of His divine glory, so that the works of God might e made visible through him. This requires an attitude of abandonment to God; a reaffirmation that he truly knows every hair on our head, and our every ache and pain we feel.

There is no guarantee in our abandonment that God will heal us the way we wish, but his invitation is a great opportunity to do a couple of things:

  • A purification of our own fidelity. Affliction is a great lens for knowing how to prioritize our lives. It helps us to see where we need to heal broken relationships and where we need to spend our time and energy.
  • Our attitude in our affliction can be very inspiring for others. Look to the saints and see how they dealt with their affliction. They used it to glorify God, sing his praises, and point others to the hope of eternal salvation.

One example is the life of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, a vibrant teen fully living out her Catholic faith, was struck with an aggressive form of cancer. When diagnosed at the age of 17 with osteosarcoma, she spent hours in silence, only to emerge from her ‘garden of Gethsemane’ saying, “If you want it, Jesus,  so do I.” She lived the remainder of her short life as a sign of God’s love with radiant joy.

Her words, in a way, reflect the words of Job when he was stripped of everything he had:

Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all of this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-21

This prayer of Blessed Miguel Pro could be made our own, or at least inspire us in our own encounters with suffering:

Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with afflictions? Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so. If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. Love without egotism, without relying on self, but enkindling in the depth of the heart an ardent thirst to love and suffer for all those around us: a thirst that neither misfortune nor contempt can extinguish … I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith … Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

Related:

Sunday reflection: John 9:1-41, by Ed Morrissey, reflects how affliction can be a blessing.

 

Salvifici Doloris, by Blessed John Paul II

 

Maxims of the Saints

I love the stories of the Saints and the inspiration that I always glean from their zeal for life and their love for God. They are often quoted, little catchy sayings that are so simple and yet so packed with wisdom. Some of my favorite maxims are:

  • “Love spurs us on to do great things, and makes all that is bitter sweet and savory.” – St Teresa of Jesus (Avila)
  • “At the end of our life, we shall all be judged by charity.” – St John of the Cross
  • “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • “Jesus, if you want it, I want it too!” – Bl. Chiara Luce Badano
  • “Those who love are never tired, since love knows no burden.” – St Magdalene of Canossa*

The list goes on! Come check out the whole post at:

All Holy Men and Women of God, Pray for Us!

As All Saints Day comes to a close, I find myself reminiscing how beautiful of a feast it is, and my fond memories of walking through Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I wrote today on Google+:

“(All Saints Day) is the best day of the year to visit St. Peter’s, Rome. All altars are lit in honor of the Saints. Saints of God, pray 4 Us!”

(High Altar with Reliqueries of the Saints – All Saints 2010,
via http://orbiscatholicussecundus.blogspot.com)

My Canossian community has practiced this tradition for centuries, placing the Saints on the altar to commemorate their heroic lives on their special day:

From left to right:

– St Teresa of Avila, Pray for Us!

– St Stephen Protomartyr, Pray for Us!

– St Josephine Bakhita (Canossian Sister), Pray for Us!

– St Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pray for Us!

– The Holy wood of the Cross of Christ.

– Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, Pray for Us!

– Saint Catherine Laboure, Pray for Us!

– St Magdalene of Canossa (Our Foundress), Pray for Us!