Repentance, renewal, conversion

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE are now in the season of Lent which is an ideal time for us to go through the process of repentance, renewal and conversion. Given the temper of the times, we should feel this need deeply.

We cannot deny that as Pope Francis noted recently, the prevalent world culture today appears to have a weak sense of sin, if not the loss of such sense. In fact, what are clearly and objectively known as sins, like abortion, sterilization, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, corruption, etc. are now legalized or at least considered as standard operating procedure or as the new normals.

We have to be ready to counter this trend. And the secret, of course, is nothing other than for us to get closer to God. For it is only with God that we would know what is objectively good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral. We cannot rely simply on our subjective estimations of these things—personal, academic, social and cultural, political and legal, etc.—no matter how indispensable they also are.

So we can deduce that this weakening if not loss of the sense of sin is due to us ignoring God, or distancing ourselves from God. Before we can feel the need for renewal, repentance and conversion, we first have to strengthen our belief, relationship and love for God. Otherwise, we will fail to get the whole picture of things.

Thus, we need to do a lot of basic catechesis of our faith, bringing to the fore the reality of God, how he loves us and always offers us his mercy. It should also teach us how we are necessarily related to him and how that relationship should be. This should be done with the gift of tongue so that the truths of our faith can find a home in our intelligence and will in the way each one of us is.

This is, of course, no easy job. It’s a tall order. But it simply has to be done, no matter what difficulty may be encountered. We just have to continually importune for God’s grace, for what we cannot do, God can always do. Nothing is impossible for him.

So, the spiritual and supernatural means of prayer, sacrifice and recourse to the sacraments, especially confession and communion, should be resorted to first of all. These means have an effectivity that goes beyond our human perception. We should just do them even if we feel there are no visible effects.

Aside from catechesis which engages us intellectually more than anything else, we should promote the different practices of piety and devotion if only to engage our heart with God too. These are important because we need to be engaged with God in the wholeness of our humanity as much as possible.

We really cannot deny that we need continuing repentance, renewal and conversion because even if we feel that we are doing well spiritually and morally, we know that we have feet of clay, we are always prone to sin, and we can commit sin and moral errors without realizing it.

If our first parents, created by God in the state of original justice and thus enjoyed some kind perfect life where they had immortality and integrity, managed to fall into sin, we can just imagine how we would fare in the drama of our life when we are born already with original sin and surrounded by all kinds of sin.

And as St. John said in his first letter, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1,8) We have to be most careful when we tend to think that we are good or holy enough.

Our continuing need for repentance, renewal and conversion also stems from the fact that we need to be more and more like God as he wants us to be. We cannot progress in that direction without repentance, renewal and conversion.