Study: Recall a time when you made a serious mistake. What steps did you take to make it right? Do you have any unfinished work that needs to be done?
Pray: Saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” can be very difficult; don’t try it alone! Ask the Lord for the grace and strength.
Serve: How can you help another on the path to repentance? How might you encourage people to seek healing and forgiveness?
Remember back in elementary school when we all learned long division? Perhaps you remember some of those really long problems that took a whole sheet of paper to write? I recall the excitement when I found the answers at the end of the book, only to have my hopes crushed when the dreaded words “show your work” were part of the instructions…
To demonstrate the exercise our 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Tempesta, would put a problem on the chalk board and demonstrate line by line, showing the work and how the process repeats until you made your way through the entire problem. At the end you would have the answer, with all the work to prove it.
I remember asking Mrs. Tempesta what would happen if you made a mistake early on in the process. She smiled and repeated the problem along side the original – with one tiny mistake. The wrong answer at the end of the work glared at our class; when we asked what do you do if your answer doesn’t match the solution in the book, she replied, “You have to start at the beginning, find your mistake, and rework a new solution.”
Welcome to repentance.
We all make mistakes: we say things we can’t take back; do things we regret; allow things to happen that we’d give anything to erase. And while we can’t change the past our faith tells us that we have a process that can bring healing and restore relationships. Like long division, we find our mistakes, REPENT, and rework a solution that follows a new path of behavior.
The words “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” are some of the most powerful in any language. The first reading and the Gospel today are especially adamant that we take them to heart – repenting of our sins and choosing a Godly path that brings healing to our lives. Remember: God never gives up on us! The process looks like this:
- We run through our own personal examination of conscience
- We admit it – perhaps directly or in the Sacrament of Confession
- We are sorry for the hurt we have done, acknowledging our sins/mistakes
- We do our part to make it right – doing what we can to fix and heal
- We call upon God’s healing grace and strength
Perhaps it’s been awhile since we stepped into a confessional. Perhaps it’s been awhile since we have honestly looked into our hearts. Today we can take a moment to look inside, see what doesn’t belong, and make the move to repent of our sins and turn to the Lord. May we see in the example of Jonah and Jesus today that we have hope; God keeps calling – inviting us to turn away from sin and embrace the Good News.
And if you are looking for some help in checking out your heart, try these options for an Examination of Conscience.
Note: This post was originally published on January 19, 2015.