The domestic church is like an enclosed garden; a planned space
for the cultivation, nurture and care of the family.
The present is the only chance to build our family as a domestic church.
Although the door to repentance is wide open, it is a very tiny door. We have to be very small to find it, and even smaller to enter it. Repentance can only begin with humility.
Canadian author Michael O’Brien in his epic fiction novel The Father’s Tale writes this conversation between a priest and the protagonist that clearly reflects our human experience:
“You see, Aleksandr, in each heart three trees grow. Life cuts them down, trims them, crafts them into crosses. Then they are lifted high on a hill – a hill like a skull. One is the cross of Jesus, the second the cross of the repentant thief, and third the cross of the unrepentant thief. . . .
We like to think that in times of trial, we will suffer like Jesus. If we are a little bit realistic, we will say to ourselves, “No, I am not much like Him. Therefore I will be like the repentant thief, and go straight to Paradise.” But so often, when the trial arrives, we find to our dismay that in fact we are the unrepentant thief. . .”
“Yes, Alex said morosely, nodding. “That is true.”
“This is not a cause for sadness,” the priest said with a smile and outstretched arms. “This is a great victory. To see ourselves as we are is the precondition for repentance. When we understand that we are the unrepentant thief, then and only then are the wellsprings of conversion opened to us. We can turn to Jesus hanging in agony on his cross and beg forgiveness from him. And on that day, we enter Paradise.”
To see ourselves as we are is the precondition for repentance. It requires humility to recognize that we have failed to love God and neighbor with our thoughts, words and actions. To offer no excuses, justifications, and explanations for our lack of charity requires dismantling the bulky armor that defends our pride. Arrogance and self-righteousness obscure our objectivity.
When was the last time a loved one acknowledged that they wronged you? When was the last time you approached someone to admit blame? Challenging as it may be, repentance should be a solid thread in our lives as followers of Jesus. Our lifelong transformation in love does not happen without it. The Church gives us the season of Lent as a chance to see ourselves as we are, repent of sin, and return to the Father.
Preparing our Hearts for Lent
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Let us humble ourselves before God and enter into this penitential season as the chance to turn from sin and turn to God. The following 5 actions will help get us started:
The Gift of Lent
When Lent comes around, a little anecdote always helps me to take this penitential season seriously. As I get older, I take it even more earnestly.
Upon death, a person faces Jesus and says, “Lord, I did not have enough time to reform my life.” To which, Jesus replies, “I gave you Lent every year.”
Let us humble ourselves before the Lord. Find that tiny door of repentance and enter through it. There, we will encounter Jesus, our God who emptied Himself for our sake.