Fr. James Chelich
Repentance is an act by which you take on a whole new attitude toward the sinful habits and addictions that cling to your life. Repentance means you ACKNOWLEDGE CLEARLY that God is right about you and sin in your life: your sinful habits and addictions control you; they can, and often do, easily pull your life apart. Repentance means you DECLARE EMPHATICALLY, without any reservation or exception: “The sin in my life has to go — all of it!” Repentance means you HUMBLY ADMIT that you are powerless to free yourself from your sinful addictions, that you need God’s help and that you are ready and willing to reach out and take firm hold of it. Repentance means that you GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES and transfer control of your life to God.
You must lay aside your former way of life and the Old Self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that New Man created in God’s image, Whose justice and holiness are born of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24
Repentance is the ‘attitude of heart’ in which God’s grace ‘works’ to defeat the Old Self within you. When your heart is set in the attitude of repentance, God’s grace can take hold of your sinful habits and work powerful changes within you. Let’s take a look at how the attitude of repentance actually works with God’s grace in defeating the Old Self.
“You must deny your very self, take up your cross each day and follow in my steps” Luke 9:23 “…follow in my steps…”
To “follow in the steps” of Jesus means a commitment and effort to form your entire life in the pattern of Jesus’ life: your attitude, the way you speak and the way you act. To do this you will need to speak to the Lord daily in prayer, read the Scriptures, strengthen yourself with the Sacraments, exercise yourself in charity, and practice justice and peace. As you do these things each day, you will begin to notice more and more clearly the parts of your ‘Old Self’ that cling to you. These are the sinful habits and addictions that want to control and pull your life apart: bitterness, lust, lewd conduct, quick temper, harsh words, insults, foul language, violence, slander, lying, stealing, drunkenness, etc. (Ref. Eph 4:25-31 and Col 3:5-10) Each time one of these rises within you, you must ‘deny it’ and ‘take it to the Cross’.
“…deny your very self…”
To ‘deny’ a part of your Old Self does not mean to pretend that it does not exist in you. It means to face the sinful habit and decide that you will no longer let it go on living in you. This is done in prayer patterned on the attitude of repentance: Lord, I acknowledge clearly that you are right about the sin in my life. It has control of me and wants to destroy my life. I declare, without any reservation: I want this sin to go — all of it! I humbly admit that I am powerless to defeat it. I reach out to You for help. I need your Divine Love to defeat the forces of sin and death in my life. Lord, I transfer control of my life to You. I open my heart to Your love and the power of Your grace.
“…take up your cross each day…”
Jesus carried his cross to Calvary. This is exactly where you are to carry your sinful habits and addictions. On his cross, Jesus broke the power of sin over your life. To ‘take up your cross each day’ means to take your sinful habits and addictions to the Cross of Jesus, as often as they rise in you and as soon as they show themselves. You do this by immediately turning to the Lord in prayer. Ask Jesus to let you stand at the foot of his Cross. With your whole heart reach out and claim the power of his saving death to overcome this temptation and to put this sinful habit or addiction to death: Jesus, this old part of myself rises to take control of me again. I stand beneath your cross and I claim the power you won for me by your death and resurrection. Your death, “was death to sin, once for all”; I claim the power of your redeeming Love to defeat this temptation and to put this sinful addiction to death. I nail it to the wood of your Cross. Let it die in the blood you shed out of love for me.
Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation Declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, That you may find healing. James 5:16
Taking your sins to the cross of Jesus is exactly what confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about. In the Sacrament the Holy Spirit brings you before Jesus crucified. Here the Church stands with you and joins you in claiming the grace to put your sinful habits and addictions to death within you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin…
If we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:7,9
The death of Jesus on the Cross was the death of every sin that you bring to his Cross:
This we know: our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful (sin addicted) body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer. Romans 6:6
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was resurrection and new life for all who die to the Old Self in Him:
You can depend on this: if we have died with him, we shall live with him.” 2 Timothy 2:11
The Victory is Yours if You Persevere!
Let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith… Do not grow despondent or abandon the struggle. Hebrews 12:1-3 Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57,