Repentance says yes to the good God wants for us


Scripture Reflection

Each year in Advent we have the appearance of St. John the Baptist calling the people to repent. That call for repentance was not just for the people 2,000 years ago. There’s a reason the church puts these words before us each Advent: We need to prepare the way for the Lord today.

At the core of the work of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord was this call to repentance, to get people to change, to leave behind old ways and embrace new, holy ways. This is not optional for any of us if we desire to be holy. Repentance and conversion are not things we can take or leave as we please and still consider ourselves faithful. If we aren’t moving forward in the spiritual life, we’re very likely moving backward.

Jesus’ first words in his ministry were the same as John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That call – really it is a command – never fades in its urgency. We are never done working out our sanctity through God’s grace until we are finally in heaven.

Repentance is hard work. It means we have to change – willingly. If you think about it, we commit sins because on some level we like them or we think that they bring us some kind of happiness. It is a false and fleeting happiness, of course. The false happiness of sin will distract us from the true source of our fulfillment in Christ. But even knowing this, it can still be difficult to leave old ways behind and take up new ones.

This is where the grace of God helps us tremendously. We are weak beings, but it is in our weakness that God can do his best work. Do not be afraid to bring your weakness and faults to God and ask him to help you to overcome them. He delights in doing the work within us of making us more fully alive in him.

May we take to heart the call of St. John. Let’s do anything we can to prepare the way for the Lord by considering what doors need to be opened to let Christ in and what clutter from the past needs to be cleared away so he has an easy path to us. He only wants what’s truly good for us, and at its heart repentance is simply us saying yes to the good God wants for us.

Father John Broheimer is pastor of St. Peter Parish in Omaha.

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