Genuine Repentance

We sat there on the wooden pew. We have probably taken this seat several times in the past. My Mom and I were at the left part of our local church, St. James Parish.

It is currently the Lenten Season. A violet banner hung above the top right part of the altar, and the priest too wore a violet vestment. The homily, of course, would probably be about letting go of our old sins and surrendering them to the Lord, repentance, and forgiveness.

I love listening to homilies. The Gospel today spoke of the Lord’s Transfiguration where Jesus brought a few of His apostles to a mountain. Jesus’ face suddenly was full of light, and the prophets Elijah and Moses appeared next to Him. Peter had exclaimed, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Peter proceeded on telling Jesus that he can pitch tents for the three of them there. God spoke to them from up the clouds, telling them that Jesus was His Son with whom He is very well pleased.

Because I do not want to forget the lessons from the homily, I want to write down what the priest spoke about.

One time, he had a recollection for young students. He had them write a litany of their committed sins. Afterwards, he asked them what they felt. Some answered that they were happy, some said they were sad. However, the priest was looking for a different answer – he did not find anyone say that they felt guilty.

“Without a sense of guilt, there can be no genuine repentance,” I remember him saying this afternoon.

For the past three years, I’ve been driven by guilt sometimes to the point that I’d say sorry over and over to my Mom and Dad if ever I made a mistake, even if it was small or petty. Sometimes, I wonder if my relationship with the Lord was founded on guilt.

I think that having a sense of guilt for our bad decisions and actions is truly important to have genuine repentance, but the rest of the story must not use guilt anymore. It can be difficult for us and the people close to us who have to witness our guilt-driven cries. I just feel in my heart that I need to to say it many times to make the person I am saying sorry to that I do feel sorry, that I want to be forgiven, that I didn’t want to hurt them. So my Mom and Dad keep saying to me after I’ve said the umpteenth apology: “Enough. You already said it once. You do not have to say it again.”

It’s a loving gesture, now that I think about it. This reminds me of God who have forgiven us the very moment we felt guilt and thought about saying sorry. He knows our hearts and what we would say even before we have mouthed it out loud.

Guilt is poisonous for us when pushed to the extreme, if we fuel it ourselves and use it to justify our moping. However, simply having a sense of it is one of God’s ways for us to realize that we are wrong and that we need to be corrected.

The priest too said that we must acknowledge our weaknesses after. He gave an example: a woman who loved to gossip should not go anymore to the place where she gets to hear lots of rumors from passersby. She knows already her weakness to wanting to hear about someone’s new car or big mistake, so she should avoid the places where temptation to give in to weaknesses could be present.

Should she really want to be a better person, she has to let go of old habits – habits that brought her to sin.

True repentance, I read somewhere, is to change. And that is change for the better. Maybe we have repented in our hearts and minds, but we must show it in our actions as well.

When I say sorry to my Dad whenever I’m being stubborn to him when I need to revise something from my works, he would say to me, “Don’t say it. Do it.” He already knows that I am sorry, but he reminds me to do the action that shows I am really sorry.

After we have acknowledged our guilt of our sin and accepted our accountability for it, we repent.

The priest said that Jesus’ transfiguration was not only an invitation for an external transfiguration but also an invitation for a change of heart.

He calls us for our own transfigurations where we change our old habits to new ones, habits that would bring us closer to our Maker in His ways of love, forgiveness, and mercy. Our hearts of stone, He turns to hearts of flesh that know how to feel guilt, acknowledge their weaknesses, repent sincerely, forget the ways of sin, and share an intimate and personal relationship with God as His child.

Just this morning, I wasn’t excited or motivated to go to Church.

But every time my Mom and I would go to our local parish on Sunday afternoons, Jesus would be there, making me tear up upon seeing His love through the people around us, holding hands and singing Our Father, the love of my Mom and Dad, and the beautiful tenor and bass voices of the choir.

Angels sing in the Church, Jesus is alive in everyone.

Like what Peter said, it was good to be here. I should be moved to tears.

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