The internet has expanded over the years inundating the user with pop ups, advertisements and unwanted information to the point that many go on overwhelm, grab their head and say: “TMI!” Too much information! The mind can only process so much at a given time.
Sometimes our faith goes on TMI—too much information. If you asked ten different people what Christianity is, you’d probably get ten different answers. We tend, over time, to add items to items and more items so that we have difficulty understanding the core constructs of our faith and practice.
Jesus himself, is the core construct—in his words, the cornerstone on which The Word stands. Jesus passes on to his disciples and to us what he practiced as the central task of the church.
Once we know the central task of the Church we can practice this in our families.
Jesus summarizes the central task of the Church to his disciples on Ascension Day—10 days after his resurrection, 10 days before Pentecost: “repentance and the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed….” Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed. Period.
Repentance and the forgiveness of sins is a life style; a faith skill that is practiced and developed on a continual basis that deepens our faith. There is a difference between learning and following. We can learn something without following it.
How to help our families follow Christ is to first ourselves be a living example of repenting and forgiving. We teach our families by modeling how to follow Christ practicing repentance and forgiveness. Repenting and forgiving is a lifestyle of continually turning to God proclaiming God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. Repenting and forgiving teach us and our children that we are not rejected when we fail or are wrong, and that we can offer the same gift of mercy to others.
All of Jesus’ teachings rest on repentance and forgiveness such as the Beatitudes. Humility, mourning, meekness, seeking righteousness, being merciful, purity of heart, peacemaking and others are all rooted in repentance and forgiveness. Repentance and forgiveness define what love is, revealing that the problems of life may involve others, but the place we begin looking is with ourselves. We can pray for others but we cannot change them. It is an act of supreme arrogance to think we have the right to judge or change someone else. We can forgive them, though. Forgiveness is releasing ourselves from what another has done so that we do not drown in resentment.
By repenting and reconnecting with God, receiving forgiveness, we pass on forgiveness to others—thereby becoming the living vessels of Christ’s presence. By repenting and forgiving, our children learn to do the same—that they don’t have to fear being rejected for their mistakes—that discipline and consequences do not mean rejection but that forgiveness offers the opportunity for a new beginning.
Families that practice repentance and forgiveness are not burdened by the caustic acid of resentment that wounds the spirit. Families that practice repentance and forgiveness are free to love and be loved. Repenting and forgiving models to our children, grandchildren and others that we are about the business of catching ourselves when we stray from the presence of God and seeking forgiveness ourselves when we do—and offering the same forgiveness to others who have separated themselves from us by their actions.
My father knew how to weld. I watched him take broken pieces of metal and through the lightning arc re-bond the two pieces as one. My father taught me that the weld is stronger that the two pieces of metal. Such is what the practice of repentance and forgiveness does—re-mending the split that comes from people who have lost their way. Repentance and forgiveness welds together our separation from Christ and in a process called Oneing by St. Julian, makes us one with God.
Repentance and forgiveness means that we both practice and teach personal responsibility for our actions—for what we commit and what we omit—and that forgiveness means that we no longer fear abandonment because Jesus said he would be with us for eternity. Modeling this vulnerability frees others to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a prerequisite for Christ to “make his home in us” and live through our lives. Vulnerability is the greatest outreach of all because it opens the path for us to be spiritually transformed where we live “from Above” while being on earth. Vulnerability over time disarms others to also become vulnerable. Such is the way of love.
Repentance and forgiveness doesn’t mean that we necessarily place ourselves in harm’s way by making ourselves vulnerable to a dangerous person. For example, subjecting oneself to a felon so that one becomes vulnerable is not necessary to forgive them. Allowing an unrepentant transgressor to have continual access to oneself is not what forgiveness means. These actions would be unwise.
The practice of repentance and forgiveness is what distinguishes the difference between the message of the gospel and the message of service clubs and social services. Doing good deeds is beneficial but it does not reach to the core issue of repentance and forgiveness. Feeding someone is a good work that feeds a person for a day.
Practicing repentance and forgiveness feeds another with the spiritual food of Eternal Life.
Why settle for less than the real thing?