Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Wisdom is ageless. The Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church which clergy, religious and many lay people pray each day, recently contained a writing by St. John Chrysostom, a fourth century Archbishop of Constantinople. He offered five paths to seek repentance in our lives. I offer them in this article. Repentance is crucial to our salvation. To die in our sins is the most tragic of fates. Nothing can be worse. Today is the day to prepare for eternal life. God’s patience with us sinners gives us time to repent and turn back to God. “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved.” (Pt 3:15)
St. John offers five paths to repentance all of which he explains lead to heaven.
He writes: “The first path is the path of condemnation of sins. As Isaiah says, ‘Tell your sins, and you will be acquitted.’ And the Psalmist adds: ‘I said ‘I will bear witness against myself before the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’ So you too, must condemn the sins you have committed. Condemn them, and that condemnation will excuse you in front of the Lord, since whoever condemns the sins he has committed will be slower to commit them next time. Stir up your own conscience to be your accuser – so that when you come before the judgement-seat of the Lord no one will rise up to accuse you.”
The second path, he explains, is just as important: “It is to forget the harm done to us by our enemies, to master our anger, to forgive the sins of those who are slaves together with us. As much as we do this, so much will our own sins against the Lord be forgiven. So this is the second path to the expiation of our sins. As the Lord says, Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours.”
His third path is prayer: “… fervent prayer, sincere and focused prayer, prayer coming from the depths of the heart.” The miracle of prayer is not that it changes God, but that it changes us. God does not change. God always wants what is good for us. Our prayer opens our heart to the love of God, and helps us to seek His will. It is God’s will, and for our own good, that we turn away from our sins.
He then presents the fourth way of repentance: “… it is the giving of alms. It has great power.” Sin focuses us in on ourselves and our disordered desires. Alms turns our focus to the needs of neighbor and allows us to care for others. Rather than wallowing in our own desires, we grow in an awareness of the hungers of neighbor. Once this takes hold of our hearts, we repent of our own selfishness.
The fifth of St. John’s paths to repentance is: “… modesty and humility, that path is no less effective as a way to deprive sin of its substance. Look at the publican, who had no good deeds to speak of. In place of good deeds he offered humility, and the huge burden of his sins fell away.” When we humble ourselves before God we admit how we have failed Him. We grow in a repugnance for our sins.
“So now I have shown you the five paths of repentance,” says St. John. “First, condemnation of sins. Second, forgiving the sins of those near us. Third, prayer. Fourth, almsgiving. Fifth, humility.”
“So do not be idle, but every day advance along all these paths at once. They are not hard paths to follow. Poverty is no excuse for not setting out on the journey. Even if you are destitute you can do all these things: put aside anger, carry humility in front of you, pray hard, condemn your sins. Poverty is no obstacle — not even to that path of penitence that demands money: that is, almsgiving. Remember the story of the widow’s mite.”
St. John concludes: “Now we have learnt the right way to heal our wounds, let us apply these remedies. Let us regain true health and confidently receive the blessings of Holy Communion. Thus we may come, filled with glory, to the glory of Christ’s kingdom, and receive its eternal joys through the grace, mercy and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

By Editor

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