“The time is now! The kingdom of God is near! Repent, and keep believing the gospel!” Mk 1, 15
Being asked to repent can provoke a reaction in us. There are many reasons: perhaps we don’t like to be wrong, possibly because it’s hard work and it can also hurt looking into oneself, or perhaps we’ve just fallen out of the habit. It’s interesting to see what the Oxford Dictionary says about repentance: “to feel or to express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” Everyone needs to repent because everyone (bar Jesus and Our Lady) sins – it’s a part of our Earthly journey. Repentance therefore is akin to clearing the decks, admitting the truth, and moving on in peace. We feel uplifted, relieved and cleansed when we repent. God encourages us to repent so we can be liberated and happy. It’s something that is very healthy for all of us.
Let’s consider the opposite. Think of how you are affected when you harbour, for example, hatred, envy or jealousy in your heart. If you let ill feeling fester, it builds, and slowly it consumes your heart. It will affect your sleep, your moods, your decisions, your relationships, and make you feel dissatisfied, lonely and insecure. It then begins to spread and affect those around you. Sin or wrong doing is our real enemy. The prophets told the people to repent, as Our Lady has told us in more recent times, because if we don’t repent, and turn back to God, we become self-destructive. God only wants what is best for us. He wants to expose the truth, so sin loses its power over us. The family, the country, the world all become more peaceful, by individual hearts collectively becoming more peaceful.
You may have seen a very famous Irish broadcaster in the papers and on television recently. He spoke of being in hospital and asking to see a priest. He made a confession after many years, and he spoke about the liberating effect it had on his life. He mentioned the lifting of burdens that he had carried for years, and the great peace he experienced. His heart was transformed and he now wants to share this. Jesus told St Faustina where to go to find this peace. It is where the greatest miracles take place.
“Tell souls where they are to look for solace, that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [Confession]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage, or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith, to the feet of My representative, and to reveal to Him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated.” (Diary 1448)
Once we repent, the great miracle of God’s mercy takes place, and His peace enters our hearts (“the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give” Jn 14,27). Our lives then change. The gospels are full of examples. We think of Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, the Good Thief, or perhaps Matthew the tax collector. He was extorting money from his own people, and profiting, but he repented, and became not only a disciple, but an apostle, and God’s instrument in writing one of the 4 Gospels. Repenting transforms us, and opens our eyes to the truth. We see who God really is, our loving friend, our loving Father. We see that Jesus has come to bring us Good News, to bring sight to the blind, and to set the captives free. God does not want to restrict or control or limit us in any way. He wants us to be free and to flourish and to grow in love. He wants peace and joy on Earth.
The Lord wanted St Faustina to tell the world the good news: “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.” (1588)
This is why the Church’s liturgy constantly asks us to repent, and to be aware of our sinfulness. This is why we examine our conscience at the beginning of mass, and why we are encouraged to go regularly to confession. This is why Pope Francis speaks constantly of God’s Mercy, and why we will have a year of mercy in the Church, beginning on December 8th. It’s up to us to embrace this great gift of His mercy and to spread the good news.