Life & Soul

True repentance allows us to be capable of great love

Christ in the House of Simon by Dieric Bouts

“David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die.’”

David, King of Israel, was remembered for his mighty deeds. As God’s anointed he had secured the future of Israel’s scattered tribes. He was also remembered for his sin. Despite the many favours that he had received from the Lord, he had blatantly disregarded God’s law by murdering the innocent Uriah and taking his wife to himself.

Perhaps to a lesser extent we are all like David. In many ways we remain faithful to God’s will, but in hidden ways we surrender to a self-will that has the power to master us. David was also remembered for his repentance. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David immediately confessed his sin, thereby placing himself in the hands of God’s mercy. He did more than admit his failing, he prayed for the mercy that would bring about a change of heart: “A new heart create for me, O Lord. Put your Spirit within me.”

Humble repentance, in the words of St Paul, invites a divine mercy that transforms us into the likeness of the Lord. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for my sake.”

We see this change of heart in the woman of bad name who attended Jesus at the banquet of the Pharisees. While the Pharisees conspired against Jesus, this woman knelt at this feet, anointing them with oil. Jesus had clearly encountered this woman and forgiven her sins. This subsequent encounter demonstrated the transformative power of his mercy. “You see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, otherwise she would not have shown such great love.”

We are all sinners. During this Year of Mercy let us remember that true repentance bears fruit not only in sorrow, but also in an increased love for God and neighbour.

This article first appeared in the June 10 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here