Friday, October 4, 2013

Repentance is Love (Saying Sorry)

Opening Prayer (Psalm 51:1-2):
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
and from my sin cleanse me. Amen.

Perhaps no word is more associated with Christianity than "repentance," and for good reason. "Repent and thou shalt be saved!" has been repeated so much by so many that it has come to represent all that belies "self-righteousness," especially when shouted from unscrupulous pulpits or from street corners. But despite these common depictions, there is nothing more important than repentance when it comes to the health of the soul. For all it is, repentance is simply being sorry for mistakes that one has made. That is all it is. When you make a mistake and you are made to understand what you did was something that hurt someone, and you have a correctly-formed conscience, you will naturally feel sorry for what you've done and will want to make amends, to seek forgiveness. But people may be unwilling to forgive, especially childlovers, and we may be unable to fully forgive ourselves. This is where God comes in. 

Readings and Homily:

As a Christian Childlover, you often probably feel like King David in his famous penitent psalm 51, where he says "My sin is always before me" (Psalm 51:3). It's only natural to feel this way when we feel we have hurt the one we love, but you may be wondering who we hurt when we commit sins like masturbation, viewing pornography, or even just "perving" with like-minded friends online. These things don't involve "other people" and they don't seem to "hurt anyone." What's the big deal, you ask? We may come away from these so-called "light sins" feeling like we haven't hurt anyone, but indeed we have, and gravely so. No, we haven't "hurt God" by sinning in this way, because God can't be hurt by our actions no matter what we do, but we do hurt ourselves and our relationship with God when we do these kinds of things. God does not desire that we do anything that would cause us to be separated from Him, but his justice is righteous, so it must be this way. David knew this when his confessor Nathan the prophet came to him (and David confessed to Nathan), and so he repented thusly (and was forgiven by God): 
"Against You, You alone have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your eyes
So that You are just in your word,
and without reproach in Your judgment."
(Psalm 51:6)
Notice, King David remarks that he hasn't sinned against anyone but God, even though his great sin was the indirect murder of another human being for the sake of his lust. In fact, all sins against neighbor are also sins against God, but often we childlovers (as anyone) may be tempted to think that because we "aren't harming anyone," we aren't sinning against anyone. But as St. John rightly warns us: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1st John 1:8). Indeed, we should never think that "we have not sinned." We don't have to commit a sin against our neighbor (in our cases, an actual child) to sin against God, we only have to sin, period, and we have sinned against God. A so-called "harmless" sin, like masturbation, still offends God, and is therefore a sin against God, and a grave one, and we damn ourselves (and therefore hurt ourselves) if we go without repentance for it, thinking it's "nothing." In sinning, we have hurt our relationship with God, and when we gravely sin, we have killed our relationship with God's grace completely. This is what is called "mortal sin." It has eternal consequences, and is something we should take very seriously, perhaps more seriously than we take anything.

Repentance is required to restore God's graces through reconciliation (with perfect contrition as David had, being our best hope of salvation in the sacrifice of Christ), lest we face the consequences of our actions without God's grace, which are dire and eternal (because God is eternal), as the prophet Baruch wrote concerning how the Israelites ought to repent for their grave sins: 
“Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors, have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us. From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice. And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant, at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt to give us the land flowing with milk and honey, cling to us even today. For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of his own wicked heart, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.” BAR 1:15-22
Christ also echoed the necessity of heeding the message of the prophets, who chastised not only the rampant wickedness of many of the Israelites but also the wanton and fickle nature of their hearts, each "going after the devices of his heart" and then "doing what is evil in sight of the Lord." How often do we hear most childlovers doing this, and how often have we done this ourselves? Perhaps we live in habitual servitude to our various, wanton lusts and desires, and perhaps we even convince ourselves that we can "have our cake and eat it too." Perhaps we even find ourselves saying "I can hold onto my sin and still be everything God wants me to be." If we are Christian Childlovers, we know this can not possibly be, for Christ said: "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Indeed, God does not want part of your being, He wants all of it, and if you are serving the flesh, you are doing what is offensive to God who loves you and wants you to love Him, so you can not be serving God at all if you are serving the flesh at all. Likewise, children want all of your attention, not just when you feel like giving it, but all the time, whenever they need it. God is always present for you, so you should always be attentive to God. That's true Christian Childlove. 

It's easy to look at repentance like it's some big heavy burden, but it really isn't: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). All true repentance does is gives you a chance to air your personal sorrow about your weakness before God, who is infinitely merciful to accept it and ever-willing to receive you back into His arms: "I am willing... be clean!" (Mark 1:41). But repentance is more than just sorrow, it's also the firm resolution to amend your ways and to live according to what pleases God, because what pleases God is always going to be what is truly best for you. Getting back up when we stumble is as close to perfect as we can be, and we can only truly get back up if we live repentantly. St. Paul once wrote to his "younger friend" Timothy, charging him to seek holiness in this way, not in "being perfect" (God knows we are not perfect and never can be), but in at least "trying" to be perfect: 
"But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen." 1 TM 6:11-16
For a side consideration: St. Paul lived in imitation of Christ, and therefore implored us to imitate him. Now if St. Paul wrote something like this to his "younger friend" Timothy, don't you think it's time to reconsider the ways we encourage children and youths, and in particular our own young friends? 

Christ teaches us the dire need for repentance in this life in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31). Unlike most parables, there are many lessons we can derive from this parable, but it's important to understand that the rich man does not find himself in hell because he was rich, but because he failed to make use of his blessings to help his fellow man (Lazarus, the poor, diseased beggar on his doorstep). In other words, he lived more concerned with his worldly goods than he did for the things of the spirit (charity), so he therefore sadly died in the flesh. Once in the torments of hell, only then does the rich man cry out for God's mercy (the "bosom of Abraham"), but it is too late for mercy by then, and Christ describes God's correspondence with the rich man in hell:
"'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'" LK 16:19-31
The point is, we childlovers could end up like the rich man if we live to our lusts without repentance. The rich man shows in his style of speaking just how incapable he is, even in death and torment, of learning from his mistakes. Even undergoing the fires of hell, all he is concerned about is his own satisfaction, and even asks God to send the poor, diseased beggar Lazarus to go "fetch him water" and to go "warn his relatives." Even in death, he fails to regard Lazarus as a person worthy of his respect, and it's for that reason that he's stuck in hell to begin with. Ultimately the point here is in the last two verses, where the rich man makes the assertion that if someone could just come back from hell to explain just how torturous it is to live without God, people wouldn't try to do it (in this life), but Abraham (representing God) says to him that we have Moses and the prophets already telling us to repent. Christ is also referring to Himself when he makes the indication that if people won't listen to the Law and the prophets, neither will they regard Christ's own "rising from the dead" to save their life. 

We can live a life of unrepentant sin if we want. God will allow us to do it. But there are consequences to our mistakes, eternal consequences, and we should at least know what we are getting ourselves in for if we chose to go down that road. Friends, I beg you. Implore God's mercy in Jesus Christ for your sins, even if you don't think what you did was wrong, for your own sake. Repentance is humility. Repentance is love. God does not want you (or any childlover) to be tortured by your unrepentant arrogance in hell for all eternity. You do not want to find yourself in hell. You do not want anyone to go there. I pray you never find yourself there. 

Repentance is vital because repentance is love. Go here and pray any of these. Pray your own prayer of forgiveness and amendment, or pray something like this:
Father, I have sinned against You and am not worthy to be called Your son. Be merciful to me, a sinner. I am heartily sorry for having offended You. I detest all my sins because of Your just punishment, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more, to avoid the near occasion of sin, and to amend my life. Amen.  
Do it while there's still a chance, while you still have time. Do it right now, and then amend your life. You will be saved. 

Closing Prayer (Psalm 51:9-10):
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
You will let me hear gladness and joy;
the bones you have crushed will rejoice. Amen.
Grace and peace be to you. 

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