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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Guest Post: Repentance - the Royal Road to Spiritual Regeneration

by Father Tom Collins

When St. John Paul II introduced the new Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, he included, as the Third Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom with the Call to Repentance. Unfortunately, in a society that tends to view repentance in a negative light, this mystery is frequently subject to being abbreviated as merely The Proclamation of the Kingdom. Yet, as the example and teaching of so many saints have so clearly pointed out, ongoing repentance is the key to authentic spiritual regeneration. 

It is important to stress the fact that authentic repentance must be ongoing. Just as the health of our physical bodies requires the ongoing operation of our immune system, so also our spiritual health, and eternal salvation, depends on an ongoing repentance guided by a rightly formed conscience (i.e., a sincere conscience docile to the whole truth of God, not a sin-seared conscience, which seeks salvation through excuses and resentment). In order to accentuate this truth, it would be helpful to note some basic realities, which have been eclipsed in recent years from the consciousness of so many. 

To clarify our spiritual vision, we need to rediscover the fact that repentance is the way we show hospitality to the mercy of God. Note that, when our First Parents sinned, they refused to offer God the hospitality of sincere repentance. Instead, they tried to hide from God’s mercy. And when that did not work, they sought to find salvation and restoration through excuses and resentments. Thus, having persisted in their refusal to offer Him the hospitality of repentance, they left themselves exposed to the metastasizing consequences of their disobedience.

Next, we need to rediscover the basic truth that, at its core, repentance is a gracious gift of the Holy Spirit, whereby a person seeks to love beyond his/her ability. This is done in three ways. 

First of all, where one’s ability to love is perverted and/or crippled by past sins and festering resentments, repentance humbly and gratefully opens the soul not only to forgiveness, but also regenerative joy. In this context, we need to remember that the Sacrament of Reconciliation involves a proclamation of prayerful gratitude. What we are confessing in the sacrament is our contrite conviction that God’s gracious mercy and transformative graciousness is greater than the perverting and desecrating power of our sins. After all, what sin says about us comes from the Father of Lies; what Christ affirms about our sacredness by shedding His Precious Blood for us is truth. Thus, refusing to confess that God’s mercy is greater than a particular sin is a de facto sacrilegious assertion that our sin is greater than God, that the power of Satan to desecrate us is greater than God’s ability to regenerate us in His image and likeness.

Secondly, loving beyond one’s ability means gratefully acknowledging that any virtue one seems to possess is actually the fruit of numerous other people’s ministry, prayers, forgiveness and sacrifices. All authentic virtue is derived through our privileged communion with such generous souls, as all of us are called to a more profound and sanctifying communion with Christ Jesus. And, like other fruit, as is indicated in Gen 1:11-12, 29, this fruit of other people’s prayers, sacrifices and ministries, contains the seeds of new life, which can germinate and take root in the lives of many others. Thus, such virtue is always permeated with a spirit of humble gratitude for the privilege of sharing in the ever-regenerative mystery and ministries of God’s love. It is never a cause for alienating pride or boasting.  
Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
Thirdly, loving beyond one’s ability requires that we offer others the gracious hospitality of seeking their help, either when we need to further enhance our own compassion with greater competence or when our outreach to others requires the competence of others to enhance our compassion. For example, St. Teresa of Calcutta would not hesitate to ask a doctor to volunteer his professional services to the poor once a month. She did not hesitate to “repent” of her incompetence by asking others to enhance her ministry with their professional competence. Ironically, in this way she was able to draw both her helpers and her spiritual children into a deeper intimacy with the compassionate Hearts of Our Lord and Blessed Mother.

Another reason why ongoing repentance is so important for the New Evangelization to take deep root in our world is the graciousness of Jesus. Here again, in a society, where so many assert that self-esteem is based upon an alienating pride, rather than a reconciling gratitude, numerous souls fail to realize the awesome depths and riches of the merciful Heart of Christ. Specifically, since approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation involves a certain degree of awkwardness, there is a tendency either to avoid the sacrament or to downgrade the seriousness of particular sins by mumbling our sins or by using euphemisms or veiled language. But, here again, we can only experience the full transformative graciousness of God’s merciful love by confessing in a way that is humble, sincere and complete. One way of doing so is to offer the awkwardness we experience in approaching the sacrament as a sacrificial prayer for another soul, so that soul may also have the courage to trust in God’s mercy and seek healing absolution from his/her sins. When we do so, the Heart of Jesus is filled with grateful joy for our assistance - and Satan suffers a crushing headache. As one spiritual director pointed out, “Don’t let a good confession go to waste!”

As a conclusion of this reflection, we should note that the whole premise of repentance is that we are sacred. There is an adage, “A fly cannot offend a king.” Although a fly can irritate a king, it cannot offend him, since it is not a person. Only persons, since they are sacred, are capable of offending and desecrating themselves, others and Creation. Thus those who deny that we can offend God by our sins imply that we, as human beings, have no more dignity than a fly. On the other hand, since we, as persons, are  sacred, we can only find true fulfillment in sanctifying others by drawing them, through repentance and the obedience of faith, into a deeper communion with Christ. Thus, in a world, which would have us ask, “How can I survive/thrive in this situation?”, the Holy Spirit invites us to ask a. more authentic question, “How can I help to sanctify this person/situation?” Such sanctification begins with and is permeated with sincere and grateful repentance (i,e.,with humble and grateful hospitality to the redemptive and regenerative mercy of God). And the more we are open to the many dimensions of that mercy, the more we will witness it coming to fruition in all dimensions of our lives and relationships. As Jesus Himself teaches us,

“Be earnest, therefore, and repent! See, I stand at the door and knock.                                                              If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and                                         dine with him and him with Me.”  (Rev 3:19-20)


Katie said...

That is a most edifying essay! Thank you for sharing it. New Year to the Les Femmes-The Truth writers. I appreciate your efforts.

Pax et Bonum,

Susan Matthiesen said...

The Luminous Mysteries are the Seven Sacraments. This article shows clearly that the Third Luminous Mystery represent the two Sacraments of Confession and Extreme Unction.

1st Luminous Mystery - Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan - Baptism
2nd Luminous Mystery - Jesus Reveals Himself at the Marriage Feast at Cana - Holy Matrimony
3rd Luminous Mystery - Proclamation of the Kingdom and Call to Conversion - Confession and
Extreme Unction
4th Luminous Mystery - The Transfiguration - Confirmation (He confirmed them in their faith
at the Transfiguration)
5th Luminous Mystery - Institution of the Blessed Sacrament - The Eucharist and Holy Orders

MyronM said...

The Rosary, 200 elbows long***

„But the other disciples came in the ship, (for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they came to land, they saw hot coals lying, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith to them: Bring hither of the fishes which you have now caught.Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not broken”.
This paragraph from the last chapter of the Gospel of Saint John [J 21, 8-11] contains the mystery of the Holy Rosary. This was the last catch of fishermen-apostles and this also applies to the situation of the Church before the day without sunset. Boat is, of course, the nave of the Church, after an overnight fishing trip is now empty. 'Now', I mean almost 2000 years of successful fishing. Jesus, however, for the last time fills the net up with 153 fish. Because of this mass fishermen are no longer able to pull the net into the boat-Church, so this net with thick fish follows the boat. Only 200 cubits were missing to reach the shore.
Note that the fish in the net are tied together with a string, just like the rosary beads - both are a sort of the net to catch fish or souls. If you recite the Rosary in the usual form, you grab the 'Ave Maria' beads 150 times (+3), but to reach the shore with the final catch, it had to be caught 200 times (+3) and therefore, for the God's grace, Pope John Paul II extended the Rosary with 50 more 'Ave Maria'. The elbow as a unit of measurement also includes the hand you grip the rosary beads. To draw this final catch, our Mother the Holy Church asks you to apply your hand to this work at a distance of 200 elbows. Could you refuse the Queen of the Holy Rosary to do Her this little favor?! If you put yourself to this work and you find yourself on this shore, where the Lord awaits you with Fish, Bread and Fire. You will taste this Fish, which in the same lake, probably at dawn, caught our divine Master Jesus Christ and that Bread that was with Him. But Bread and Fish are one with Fire! Yes, because this is the Fire that Jesus Christ wanted to cast on the earth. And what He said He did - this Fire is already burning: the Apocalyptic Woman and Her son-man, the Paraclete. As a mystical couple, they are one and that is why there is one Fire on the shore, which marks the boundary of the God's Kingdom on earth. In the embrace of this mystical Couple, there will be those “153” handsome Pisces who could not fit into this devastated catholic Church. This Nave abandoned by fishermen, Saint Peter and Companions, on the shore turns into a wreck before our very eyes, but when you sit by the fire with Jesus, the Paraclete, the Virgin Mother, your brothers and sisters, will you look back and regret your old boat?
Oct. 11, 2019, Nuestra Señora del Rosario Coronada*, Granada, Granada, Spain, in the Saint Dominic church**
*The magnificent figure of the Madonna with Child was crowned on May 14, 1961: Dominica post Ascensionem,
** The Dominicans founded their convent here on April 5, 1492, the feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer, 'The Angel of the Apocalypse' (with the fire in his hand).
***I wrote this text for those who insist on praying the Rosary in the old version, i.e. a '150'.
Do you understand now why JPII (2002A.D.) added these 5 Mysteries to the Holy Rosary? Do you understand why he didn't call them of the Sacraments, for example, but the Mysteries of Light?
Do you understand now why, in the Malachi's Prophecy, Pope John Paul II has the nickname 'de Labore Solis'? The sun is fire and light - this phenomenon also hides the fire that the Lord Jesus wanted to cast on the earth: Paraclete. Did he fall to Earth in Poland? Is this not the land of 'de Labore Solis'?

pearl said...

Although there may be spiritual value in meditating upon such things as are contained in the "luminous mysteries" they are, nonetheless, an affront to Our Lady, who gave us the Rosary, whole and entire, and did not neglect to make it complete.

No man, be he pope or king, has authority to superimpose his own notions on a divine gift, in my opinion. That so many idolize Pope John Paul II is a tragedy, since he was first to worship false gods in God's own Church ( ).