It’s there right up front, and you can’t avoid it. The first step in following Christ is repentance. The first thing we have to do is say “I’m wrong.” Only then can we begin the journey. It’s like a magic password.
The Greek word is metanoia which means ‘turning around’. It’s there in the story of the prodigal son where the turning point is when he is in the pig pen eating the swill. Then the old version–is a stroke of psychological insight–says, “He came to himself.”
What Satan would like us to believe is that penitence is a gloomy, miserable self-tortured mentality. It’s not. True repentance is one of the most joyful and liberating things we can do. At the moment true repentance takes hold the chains of our self pride, vanity and worldly foolishness fall away. At the moment of true repentance our arrogance and know it all attitude and our belief that we are right falls away. At the moment of true repentance the burden of being respectable and righteous falls away and we are free.
Not only do we attain true freedom in the moment of true repentance, but we also begin to take responsibility for ourselves and responsibility for others and even for the whole world. “What’s wrong with the world?” I am. This is the mark of true and utter maturity–taking responsibility for my decisions, my actions, myself and my eternal destiny.
One of the most debilitating, annoying and frustrating things about ordinary life is the sheer amount of grumbling, protesting, finger pointing and blame that goes on. Over and over again we hear grown up people who ought to know better complain and blame others for their problems. It’s the president’s fault. My parents messed me up. It’s the priest’s fault. The Catholic Church is wicked. It’s the Capitalists’ fault. The Communists are to blame. Why do you want to change the world when you cannot change yourself?
Counseling? Most of it would be solved with a good and hearty confession. Too much counseling is all about blaming others and being a victim. Family problems? If everyone made a good and hearty confession most of the problems would start to be solved. Sexual problems? A good and hearty confession would start to solve the problems. Money problems? A good and hearty examination of conscience and confession would start to solve the problem. It would start to solve the problem because the individual would start to take responsibility for the problem and not blame others.
If individuals took responsibility for themselves and put their own house in order and tried to live heroically virtuous lives the world’s problems would be solved. The answer is personal virtue, and personal virtue begins with “It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Lest anyone grumble that the trash isn’t theirs–that somebody else littered–let them remember that the whole point of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is that he took responsibility–not for his own sins, but for the sins of others. This is the work of Christ, and this is the work of Christ’s body the Church in the world. Stop blaming others–even if it’s their fault. Take responsibility. Claim the blame. Pick up other people’s trash.