The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; these, O God, You will not despise.
~ Psalm 51:17
John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets, for he announced the final coming of the Messiah. And his message? “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” This is the first step to knowing Christ, the message that we must hear as He approaches. We must repent of our sins to gain salvation.
And to repent involves one of the hardest things that a person can do, because we have to change our minds about what we should do. Our thinking has to change. We cannot make excuses or pretend that what we do wrong is right. We have to make a 180 degree change and turn our eyes from being driven by our own instinctual cravings to the commandments of God.
And it must be a true repentance. There is a term for apparent repentance that is not sufficient for a rebirth in the spirit: “Attrition”. This is when we do not want to get punished for something that we know in our mind is wrong, but we do not want to change our thinking. We want to have our cake — and, possibly, steal our cake — and eat it, too. Nor can we repent simply because we do not want to end up in hell.
True repentance comes from love. We are sorry, not because we will be punished, but because we love God and feel remorse that we have offended Him. True repentance — called “contrition”, to distinguish it from “attrition” — involves a change in our heart. We might give in to temptation, but it is against our will. If we sin, we do so in sorrow.
If our hearts are truly contrite, Jesus promises that He will provide forgiveness for our sins. We can be righteous before God, despite our actions, if we really learn to repent and try to reform. Repentance is not the baleful threat that many people think it is; it is filled with joy and hope. It’s a miracle!
Lord God, let me always repent of my sins with a contrite heart. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer