Saturday, December 8, 2007

Broken Record?

The Prophet of Advent, John the Baptist, tells us to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” For over two thousand years the Church has been playing John’s record but it is not an easy one to listen to. To most of us it is a broken record. We pay little or no heed because it calls for change and we are creatures of habit. We like being stuck in our ways.

Repentance is both uncomfortable and inconvenient in its demands. The word itself gets a bad press with overtures of gloom and doom. When properly understood it is good news. Often good news is overshadowed by bad news and it is only in hearing the bad news that we do appreciate the good.

Change of lifestyle

Repentance is a radical call for a change of heart, a change of values and attitudes. There is far more to saying “I am sorry, I am wrong, please forgive me.” It implies a change of conduct and a new way of seeing God, self, neighbor and all of life.

The call to change is not merely for the prodigal sons and daughters who have neglected God and his commandments; it is also a call to those who have tried to be faithful to God. It calls for us to be challenged, for us to move out of our comfort zones and change our way of seeing the world. Repentance opens a door for us, all we have to do is pass through the door.

A lifelong journey

Repentance is the call for us to be more than we are. It is something we arrive at later rather than sooner. We all have a past but that does not mean that we do not have a future. It involves the long haul, a lifelong process. It is something we come to with patience, perseverance and most importantly the grace of God.

Repentance calls for a lot of patience. In our fast paced world, the “instant syndrome”, we live in, patience is not one of our strong points. Patience is a virtue, it is like an acquired taste. It does not happen overnight. When we break a bone, the healing process proceeds at its own pace, independent of any opinion and wish. We may want a quick fix but the natural world is at work and we will do well to learn from it.

We do not grow physically overnight nor do we grow emotionally or mentally overnight. Growth consists of a long, very involved process. We grow gradually over our lifetime. Just as physical growth cannot be forced, so spiritual growth cannot be forced without damaging ourselves. Grace builds on nature, it does not destroy it.

Peace of mind is the infinite result that patience brings about. Patience gives us the stamina we need to stay the course and come to repentance and the kingdom of peace, justice, love and truth that the kingdom of God promises to those who are faithful to the journey that stretches through time and into eternity.