Repentance is Richness

In Christianity on April 15, 2009 at 8:18 am

Having written on April 14th “I want to be a saint,” let no one imagine I actually reckon myself to be one.  That is not false humility.  To see our own shortcomings is a great grace (“not your own doing; it is the gift of God”¹).

Why—automatically; reflexively, almost as if no other conclusion were possible—do we think of ourselves as the good guys?  “Here we are, Lord,” in navy blazers and rep ties; dresses and heels; fashionable, respectable.

At best, we wrap our pettiness in pretty packages.  We paper over the moral cracks and flaws.  At worst, we fail to see our self-reliant foundation crumbling—although at times, Prufrock-like, we sense our self confidence collapsing.  “Whitewashed tombs [nicely starched white oxford cloth shirts and blouses!], which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”²  

I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
—From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (T.S. Eliot) 

Do we want to be saints?  Yes.  Have any of us attained this?  No!  Readings during Holy Week remind us of that. On Good Friday we read John 18-19 in celebration of Our Lord’s Passion. How good but terribly painful it is to play the part of the crowd.  “Behold your king!” we are told. “Take him away, take him away!  Crucify him!” we shout in return.³  Dear God, forgive us!  Forgive us every sin.  Forgive us each time we’ve turned our own way, despite knowledge it was not Your way.  Forgive every time Christ has opened his arms to us, but through our failure to respond, we have yawned and responded, “Crucify him.”

O dear God, I want to be a saint!  But the saints arrived at their destination one day at a time.  What can I do today to take just one more step toward that goal?  Can I say, with Saint Paul, as he wrote to the Philippians, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (3:12).

Christianity Richly?  Perhaps its greatest richness, its greatest grace, is repentance. Lord I am not worthy . . . but only say the word, and I shall be healed.


¹ Ephesians 2:8
² Matthew 23:27
³ John 19:15

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