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Darryl P. Reyes
Repentance is a recurring theme though the Gospel, even placed as the
opening cry of John the Baptist, in preparation of the coming of the Messiah. Then,
this concept justifiably needs deeper understanding: is repentance simply the
disposition of the sinner to ask forgiveness? What goes behind and beyond this
disposition? The article of Mark J. Boda on the concept of repentance in the Torah
brings light to this. He presents to us four major points on the matter.
First, repentance, and ultimately forgiveness of sin, is dependent on the
graciousness of the offended party. Repentance is a result of the first move from
the offended, not the offender: it is a product of the offended Gods mercy,
generosity, and covenant loyalty. Because God has made a covenant, he intends to
keep his word, even on the sight of infidelity on the part of humanity. This incites
him to have mercy on the offender. The second point, closely related to the first, is
mediation. Gods mercy is channeled to the sinner through a mediator. God shows
his mercy when somebody intercedes for the offender. Does this say that human
beings are incapable of repenting by himself? No. This is shown by the repentance
of Josephs brother, albeit, for a wrong motivation of fear for retribution instead of
true remorse for the wrong done. This shows that genuine repentance is a divine
Third point of Boda is that repentance includes turning back of the offender
towards the God. This happens when the offender seeks God again, and obeying
him again. Turning back is renewing ones fidelity to God and his covenant, obtained
by reflecting on the grace and mercy God has shown. Fourth point is confession.
After having realized Gods graciousness, the offender now acknowledges how he
transgressed that mercy. Acknowledgement is necessary to dispose the offender not
to repeat his transgression. Taking these together, repentance may be conceived as
that disposition of acknowledging ones offenses, and resolving to stay faithful to
God, rooted in Gods mercy obtained through mediation.
This theology is reflected in the rite of Penance. The formula of absolution, in
its very beginning, immediately acknowledges God as the Father of mercies, and
even presents the mediation of Christ and the Church. The mention of the Holy
Spirit in the formula is not a mere completer of the Trinitarian formula, but evokes
a basic pneumatology known by the catechized Christian: the Holy Spirit is guide
and advocate towards holiness, thus, helping us to obey God more. This theology of
repentance also implies the importance of the confession of sins, but balances it
with the confession of Gods mercy. In my and opinion, if repentance is initiated by
God, is it not more appropriate to acknowledge first Gods mercy thank him for
calling us back to him, rather than be overly scrupulous with numbers of times a sin
is committed, or thinking that one is not forgiven is he unintentionally forgets to
confess a sin? I believe that this scrupulosity is less important than Gods mercy.
However, this theology leaves some questions: how can we make people feel
that the Sacrament of Penance is not a judgment court but a place of mercy and
comfort? That the prayers or deeds imposed upon us after the rite is not
punishment, but a remedy to help us turn back to God? That Gods mercy is far
greater than our sins?