“In repentance and rest is your salvation.” Isaiah 30:15
Jesus and John the Baptist both begin their ministry with the same invitation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Isaiah sees it as a prerequisite for our healing. It seems that being called to repentance is actually good news. But not everyone hears it as such. For some, Jesus’ invitation is the equivalent of saying, “Run for cover, you’re in big trouble!” Others never even hear the call in the first place.
To know that you need to repent is, in itself, an insight from the Holy Spirit. To know it in an ongoing way is evidence of God’s continued presence with us. It is a recurring gift that accompanies us along our whole earthly journey, purifying us as we go in thanksgiving for God’s mercy. Curiously the same Greek word, exomologesis, is used to express both confession as well as thanksgiving for a gift received.
The season of Lent is an opportunity to welcome the gift of salvation (lit. healing) that repentance represents. It calls us to exercise faith and embrace the fact that God is prepared to recreate us daily, according to our desire for righteousness. As St. John of Climacus wrote, “repentance is the daughter of hope.”
Repentance recognizes that the only way forward is through transformation. It is the realization that “I cannot remain as I am,” coupled with the hope that, because God is initiating it, profound change is actually possible. To repent is not to look downwards at my shortcomings, but forward with trustfulness; not backward with self-reproach, but upwards at God’s love. It is a disposition that lives in the promise that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” By its very nature, it is future-oriented. It focuses not on what we have failed to be, but on what, by the grace of Christ, we can become.
A growing acceptance of whatever needs to be changed in us is a sure sign of maturing spirituality, and the desire to see such changes occur in us is evidence of a growing love for the Lord’s work. To love God means to willfully enter the process of repentance. To refuse this invitation—to fall back on an attitude that implies that what is, is good enough—is to stop growing as a Christian.
Repentance has long been understood as a sacrament of healing. Christ renews life and restores what is broken, and our participation in repentance recognizes and affirms His effective ministry.
As we enter this season of Lent let us welcome the hope of transformation that this God-graced spirit represents. In the words of St. John Chrysostom,
Let us apply to ourselves the saving remedy of repentance; let us accept from God the repentance that heals us. For it is not we who offer it to Him, but He who bestows it upon us.
1. How have you received this call to repentance at different times in your life? (invitation, run for cover?)
2. How has the process of repentance represented both confession and gift in your growth spiritually?
3. Where in your life are you noticing God’s healing and transformation being initiated now?
God of healing, help me to open my heart and spirit to your work of grace and hope in my life.
By Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Community
Reposted with permission from www.imagodeicommunity.ca