Sunday, November 17, 2013

A talk by a  priest-professor on the place of repentance in our lives, written up recently in the Peace Weekly, brings a new understanding of how to incorporate the way of repentance as we go about our daily tasks. It is important, the professor says, to experience repentance as committing ourselves to making a change in our lives. This commitment, he is suggesting, will make us value religious repentance and make it more meaningful for us, helping us see the harmony of religious truths.
Like the changes in our physical and mental growth, there is also a way of describing growth in our spiritual journey. The traditional  way of expressing this growth was to talk of purification, illumination and unity.  In our own spiritual journey, we have to keep asking ourselves: What does spiritual growth mean in my daily life?

Spirituality, a word appearing more often recently, has been given different meanings; what is necessary, he says, is to determine what meaning we have given the word. Traditionally the word meant encountering God and participating in his life, or listening to the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Gradually the meaning has changed, so that today it most often means the search for the meaning of life in terms of some sort of meditative practice, or any examination of ones inner life, to uncover the connection that exists between the world and ourselves.  
Repentance is the word that has been used to mean change.  In the  history of theology, repentance was a basic teaching. Repentance meant one left the world of non-belief to one of belief, left a life of sin for a life of avoiding sin, and thus sacramentally approaching the unity of the  community of the Church. Repentance helps us to enter the life of grace and  experience a  religious change.

Using the words of Scripture referring to "being born again" (John 3:3), we can peer into the mirror of Jesus' life and see ourselves following the life he has shown us.  We are called by Jesus, and by our answer of repentance, of accepting change, we become his follower. That is our identity. We have been saved by Jesus in the present moment, and we try to live this new life.

Jesus  asked us who do  we understand him to be? There is no objective answer to the question. The answer comes from  the kind of religious life we are living--not  merely from our individual identity but from what we have been called to do. We need to search, the professor says, for the reasons he calls and instructs us, as members of his Church. 

And what  is the Church? We have been called to be members of his Church to work together to overcome the evil we see in the world, as Jesus did. We are to go toward God and the world with a  special type of attitude, which is the attitude that Jesus had.  As we go on this journey with Jesus, having repented, having changed--"being born again"--our experience of God will also change and deepen.                      

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