The Power of Repentance

I keep writing that Great Lent is not about following the rules, but about changing our hearts. Fasting from food is how we learn to control our desires, but it all begins with repentance. When we decide to change, then we put into action life choices that change our hearts.

But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.  And he will become a sanctuary, and a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And many shall stumble thereon; they shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”  Bind up the testimony, seal the teaching among my disciples.  I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.  Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.  And when they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the wizards who chirp and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?  To the teaching and to the testimony! Surely for this word which they speak there is no dawn.  They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry; and when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will curse their king and their God, and turn their faces upward; and they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness. But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.  Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.  For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian.  For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 8:13-9:7

Today the Church commemorates a woman of great repentance. Saint Mary of Egypt promised that she would change her ways if she was allowed to enter the church to venerate the Cross of Christ. She lived forty-seven years in the desert, alone in her repentance. She is our example.

Today’s reading from Prophet Isaiah reminds us that God is our sanctuary. He is the One who will comfort us, not the world. Saint Mary had used the world as her comfort but was never satisfied until she turned her life toward God. She is our example.

Obviously, we are not all called to move out to the desert for the rest of our lives. Some become monastics, but the rest of us live out our repentance in the world. It is just as wild if you think about it. We are still surrounded by dangers, but instead of snakes and lions, we are have sin.

As we enter the third week of Great Lent, I invite you to focus more on your repentance this week. Focus on the choice to follow God’s way instead of the world. Make a pledge to come and venerate the Holy Cross this Sunday like Saint Mary and follow up that promise with repentance.

Living in repentance is never easy, but as Prophet Isaiah reveals today, God is there to help us. Let Great Lent be our desert this year. It will not only change our hearts, but it will also change our eternity because of God’s promise.

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