Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
“When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.”
It is by our actions that we show God our intention to reform our lives. It can feel “too easy” to go to Confession and be reconciled with God because we know at a deep level that true repentance demands a change of life. To repent means to turn back to the Lord. What good does turning back do us if we never take steps toward God? This is why your penance is an important part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We need to not only confess our sins and profess our desire to do better, but to do better. The more we progress upward in virtue (the habit of doing good), the less we will progress downward into sin.
The real danger lies in doing nothing. Even having received God’s forgiveness for our sins, we remain in danger of falling back into sin as long as we continue to flirt with evil. Sin doesn’t get less tempting, less attractive. What changes is our hearts, our desires; when we reorient ourselves toward God and habitually practice good actions that take us farther from sin, we give ourselves greater perspective and a better sense of the reality of sin. With enough perspective, we can see sin for what it is—empty, unfulfilling, relationship-destroying, soul-killing evil. This greater perspective makes us desire sin less and virtue more.
So, let us learn from the people of Nineveh and make acts of penance and repentance a regular part of our lives. Let us inoculate ourselves against the disease of sin by a healthy diet of self-denial, honest labor, and deliberate care for others.
Peace in Christ,
Father Matthew Kuhn