God’s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and pre-eminent sign of his infinite goodness.
Precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart than this, the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and did, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father, when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled.
He healed our physical infirmities by miracles; he freed us from our sins, many and grievous as they were, by suffering and dying, taking them upon himself as if he were answerable for them, sinless though he was. He also taught us in many different ways that we should wish to imitate him by our own kindness and genuine love for one another.
So it was that Christ proclaimed that he had come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous, and that it was not the healthy who required a doctor, but the sick. He declared that he had come to look for the sheep that was lost, and that it was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that he had been sent.
Speaking more obscurely in the parable of the silver coin, he tells us that the purpose of his coming was to reclaim the royal image, which had been coated with the filth of sin. “You can be sure there is joy in heaven’, he said, over one sinner who repents.
Saint Maximus the Confessor, Letter
Reflection – I am sharing treasures from the Office of Readings this week on the blog. We have here a most beautiful Scriptural reflection on some pretty basic facts about human life and divine life, the relationship between God and us, what God has done and what we need to do.
We need to repent. God has done everything for us to make it possible for us to do this. The whole movement of God to us in Christ is to bring us to repentance, to have us return to him. Maximus the Confessor develops this along so many lines of Gospel imagery and narrative in this letter. Lost sheep, images on coins, healing miracles—all of this is to bring home to us the message that God has come to make our broken relationship with Him right.
We have a beautiful hymn here at MH that we sing in Lent. The text is from Jeremiah: Come O virgin Israel, come home to these towns of yours! How long will you hesitate, O faithless daughter? For the Lord is creating something new on earth, the Lord is creating something new on earth.
God has come to create something new on earth, and that something new is our restored and renewed communion with Him. It is a deeper communion than what was had before the fall, because in Christ we are not only restored to that original unity, but are drawn into the Triune communion and made sharers in it.
It is all mercy, all compassion, all the goodness of God to us. But He doesn’t force us to do anything we don’t want to do, and so the reality of repentance is still there. We think of repentance as a heavy, hard, sad thing. It has that dimension, for sure. But the deeper reality is not the hardness and the shamefulness of our need to make that act of repentance.
The deeper reality is the return, the destination, the restoration in Christ. The happy ending, and the great joy that awaits us and all of heaven in the one sinner who repents. We need to contemplate these matters, as we all have something, big or small, that is a repentance matter in our lives. We need to see it not as a burdensome sorrowful thing, but as the great invitation from God to enter into the joy of heaven, into the merciful love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This and this alone is the whole point of Jesus, the whole point and purpose of our Catholic faith, of the Gospel which has been proclaimed to us.