REPENTENCE AND RECONCILIATION IN LENT -2004. REV. DR. DOMINIC ISAAC (St. William's Church-Philadelphia)

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I) INTRODUCTION We are still in Lent and have not begun Easter. Before Easter we call it Lenten Season or Lent Season. In fact, lent is a penitential season of prayer starting with Ash Wednesday and ends with Holy Saturday.

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All these days are counted as forty days. This period of forty days was established from our Lord 's example (Cf. Mt. 4:2). Forty days are given to each Christian adult to become aware, how his/her spiritual and moral life is growing in relation to man and God. What he should do for his God and Savior, God the father who is the creator of all things. The article is based more on biblical and theological texts, my personal reflection and on my personal experience in pastoral ministry in the Church. The aim of the article is to give awareness to the readers, how our sinful life can bring harm and break relationship with each other and with God. How we can understand ourselves as a weak human being rather than acting like angles and saints. How we as a Christian can bring self-control, self-supervision, conversion, repentance and goodness in our lives and in our society. How can we promote religious and spiritual lives in our families, communities and societies? How can we thank God who is merciful and forgives us all the time? How can we make commitment to God and begin to go to Church for prayers? How can I realize what good I can do for others rather than others do for me? Do I like to help the weak or sinner? Can I forgive the others and reconcile?

II) THE NATURE OF THE SIN FOR REPENTENCE
The nature of the sin means, a creative and controlling force in the universe or an inner force of the person to do wrong. According to the dictionary of the bible, the word "sin" in OT means "missing or failing, but very often it also means wickedness, confusion, guilt, wrongness, deceit, evil and to disobey or to transgress. In the New Testament, sin means missing of the mark, lawlessness, impiety, and a fall, description of the right relationship to God, desire, lust and disobedience. Bernard Cook, said: - "Sin is itself a process, a process of growing self-destruction, of denying one's selfhood, of self-refusal, of continued indecision or deviant decision. This sinful development needs to be reversed by the person's own fundamental option to live more genuinely, to live according to the principles of the gospel and with continuing process of self-acceptance and have a positive growth. That will replace the damaging effects of the sin". St. Catherine of Siena said: "For I told you that every sin, as well as every, virtue is realized through your neighbors. Sin is committed through lack of charity for God and your neighbors, and virtue is practiced out of the warmth of charity". Thus through sin a person breaks his/her relationship from person to person and to God. Which means when a person does not obey the Ten Commandments from Old Testament and Two commandments from the New Testament looses his direction to go to God.

1) TEN COMMANDMENTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
God gave these Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai (Cf. Exodus 20) and they were revered by the Israelites. Those who do not obey the commandments are not God's people. The laws are called both natural law and the laws of God. They are divided into two parts. First three commandments are part one and they speak about relation of the human being to God (means the love and worship a person owes to Him). While the last seven are called part two and they speak more about the relationship of human beings to each other (means the love and justice due to others). In the New Testament Jesus Christ appeared as a new Moses and He described that he came not to abolish the Laws but to perfect them. Thus "For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ"(John 1:17). St. Paul also makes aware and said, "The show that, what the law requires is written in their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them" (Roman 2:15).

2) TWO NEW COMMANDMENTS IN NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, there are two new commandments and the Greatest Commandment is "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind". The second commandment is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There are no other commandments greater than these" (Mt. 22:37-39; Mk. 12:30-31). These laws are the summary of the Ten Commandments and they are called moral law, which are the Christian basis of all-moral laws and life. In fact, moral teaching of Jesus Christ is an objective guide for one's moral and spiritual life. Jesus united all the human beings as a family and He said; "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"(Jn. 13:35). However, in the New Testament, Jesus is the Son of God who became mediator between God and man, brings back A person to God through Him.
To reach again to God, it a big process, to accomplish this process, Jesus gives two new commandments, which are the summary of the Ten Commandments, and these commandments explains to love God and to love your neighbor. Jesus has two natures divine and human. He is the Son of God and He is a perfect Human. However, the teaching of Jesus Christ teaches us that how each his believer must reconcile, repent and convert himself/herself in order to enter in to the kingdom of God. Therefore a person must repent from his sins, convert himself and reconcile his relationship with his fellow man and with God. Jesus died on the Cross-for mankind to save man from his sinful life. For Jesus wanted to equate Himself with His brothers and sisters as the object of this love. When He said: "As long as you did it for one of my least brothers or sisters, you did it for me"(Mt. 25:40). The general idea of these commandments is to obey and not to break the laws. If a person breaks these laws then he commits sin and you need "reconciliation".

III) REPENTANCE AND RECONCILIATION IN THE BIBLE
The idea of repentance and reconciliation is coming from the man's sinful life in the bible. The term "repentance", in Hebrew is called "naham", which gives the meaning of contemplated change in God's dealings with men for good or ill according to his just judgment (1Sam. 15:11, 35; Jonah 3:9-11). In the NT "repentance" in Greek called "metanoia", which means regretting, having remorse" and have a complete change internal and external. Repentance was the theme of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1;Mark1: 4;Mt. 3:8). Jesus continues John's theme but adds, significantly," The time is fulfilled" (Mk. 1:15). The sinners are not the righteous, they are called to metanoia (Matt. 9:13; Mk. 2:17;Lk. 5:32), and heaven rejoices over their repentance (Lk.15).
The term "reconciliation" means a change of personal relationship between human beings (1Sam. 4: 4: Mt. 5:24; 1 Cor. 7:11). Rationship between God and man (Roman. 5:1-11: II Cor. 5: 18 F; Col. 1:20: Eph. 2:5). All things are related to God. God is the subject of the whole reconciling process, whose gracious love reaches out even for his enemies. Men do not reconcile God, but God so changed the situation between himself and men that he reconciled the world unto himself. God brought this reconciliation to his own Son Jesus Christ. We are reconciled to God through the death of his Son (Rom. 4:10; Col. 1:22) and especially through the blood of his Cross (Col. 1:20;Eph 2:16). For Catholics reconciliation is a Sacrament. Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession takes place because of sins. In the Old Testament, term "confession" means acknowledgement (Greek homologia) of the sovereignty of God (Cfr. Isa.5: 23). Confession is the admission of the guilt. It is of repentance and belief in the gospel (Cfr.Mk. 1:1-5).
The notion of confession has come from human being's sinful life. Biblically the sinful life is called the existence of the sin, which comes from the book of Genesis, Chapter 3. It was the root cause of the sinful life of Adam and Eve in Eden. Sin came in the form of temptation, suggestion and proposal by the serpent but it was embraced by Eve (Cf. James 1:13-15). The sin of the Eve begins with doubt concerning the righteous of God's command not to eat of the fruit of the true of the knowledge of Good and Evil. It has depicted this somber fact as an Original Sin and its effects on humankind. God created Adam and Eve but they disobey and rejected Him. They were tempted and they tried to become his equal. By rejecting God, man has lost God's love, mercy and his grace and has become weak in spirit. Thus, as a result of original sin, the man feels alienation from God. He hides, when God confronts him, Adam blame the woman, Eve, for his sin and she in turn blames the serpent. The point is simple and tragic: the man's guilt has distorted all his relations with God. Sin has turned the life into a harsh burden. Chapters 4 through 11 of Genesis depict the escalation of sin in the world, rippling out from Adam 's original sin. Cain murders his brother Abel. Sin reaches such proportions that God sends a great flood that covers the earth, a symbol of the chaos and destruction sin brought to creation. Genesis Chapter 11 human folly reaches it peaks: man tries again to become God's equal by building a tower reaching to the heavens. This rejection of God spills over into man's rejection of his fellowmen. There is now division and complete lack of communication among nations. The message from the book of Genesis is that a world of beauty was deformed by sin. This is an ongoing result, which has divided, into pain, suffering, frustration, anger, blame, bloodshed, loneliness, and death.

IV) INDIVIDUAL REPENTANCE AND RECONCILIATION IN THE BIBLE
To build a new relationship again with God, man needs repentance and reconciliation from his sins. The term reconciliation is biblical and sacramental. This term is a joyful reunion, which is explained in Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel. It also expresses this joy poignantly: the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being too merciful. In response to them, Jesus told three parables to them about God's Mercy. 1) The lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7): -This is a parable about the lost sheep and about the role of the good Shepherd. How the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the desert and goes after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbors saying to them "Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost." In this parable God is like a shepherd. The lost sheep is a sinful person. When the sinner repents his/her sins, God celebrates a person's conversion and rejoices in heaven with the angels and the saints. 2) The Lost Drachma (Luke. 15: 8-10) is a parable about the woman who has lost her drachma, she will light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, she will call together her friends and neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, I have found the drachma I lost". This parable gives the message of the struggle of repentance and conversion. When he/she struggles to bring new life and change, lost drachma is sinner. Light and lamp is presence of God. Sweep out is the struggle of the sinner. Sinner person becomes lost drachma but through the light and lamp can be found again. In fact, Jesus gives the message that, for the same reason, the angels of God sing for joy when a sinner turns back to God. We see again joy in the parable. 3) The Lost Son (the prodigal-Luke 15:11-32):-In this parable Lost sin is a Sinner person and father is God. God always embraces us like his sons and daughters, especially when we repent and come back to him. He forgives the sin of his son and rejoices. Thus forgiveness creates a new relationship: the offending past becomes positive; the circle of "rights" is broken. All definitive reconciliation requires that the circle of judgment should be broken.

V) AUTHORITY OF THE APOSTLES TO FORGIVE THE SINS
In the NT, authority and power is explained, as a power to forgive sins. Jesus has the authority to forgive the sins and said, "The Son of man has the authority on earth to forgive sins" (Luke 5:24). This authority Jesus gave to his apostles and he said to them, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained". (John 20: 22-23). Biblically we see that Jesus gave His authority to His twelve apostles, to forgive sins. The term "Authority" in Gk. Called "exousia", which is translated normally as an "Authority," or "power".
Forgiving the sins and repentance is not easy to explain and understand at once. Therefore we need some support and help of other terms. These terms are called Confession, Penance and Reconciliation. Through these terms the idea of forgiving the sins becomes more clear, concrete, true, exact and real. Thus the term confession, penance and reconciling are used for our spiritual conversion and repentance. The term penance is applied to the Sacrament of Penance and that has to do with satisfaction. The sacrament by which we receive God's healing, forgiveness for sins committed after baptism. The rite of healing and forgiveness is called in modern term Sacrament of Reconciliation" because it reconciles us not only with God but also with the whole Community. Both these aspects of reconciliation are important. As members of Christ's Body, everything we do effects the whole Body of the person, whether we do well or commit sin. Sin wounds our soul and makes us sick spiritually. Through repentance and conversion, we restore our spiritual health and strength. When a person turns aside or away from God's love, the harm is to the sinners. Venial sin strains one's relationship with God. Mortal sin ruptures the relationship. Sin is a tragic reality.

VI) AUTHORITY OF THE PRIEST TO FORGIVE THE SINS
After the apostles the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Ordination) gives this authority of forgiving the sins to the priest who has the vow of celibacy, obedience and poverty. The teaching of the Catholic Church describes that there are seven sacraments and chronologically, "confession/ reconciliation" is a fourth Sacrament. In the present time, it is known more "Sacrament of Reconciliation" rather than confession, which provides the opportunity to each individual Christian for his spiritual conversion and repentance for his/her spiritual life. St. Agustine said: -" It is very essential to go to the priest for your confession because only he makes the person aware of his faults, sins and weakness. He gives hope, trust, firm promise and mercy of God" (Confessions, 260). Therefore as we see that Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiven, it is a God's mercy that comes from the goodness of God. It will go on operating so long as sin, which permits us harass righteous souls of the people but through the confession of the sin, it is no longer permitted to harass the person. We must remember that falling into sin, it is God's toleration because of his love and forgiveness for us. Thus we are protected with his blessed love, power, wisdom, mercy and grace. He raised us with more joy. In fact, righteousness and in mercy, God wished to be known and loved, now and forever.

VII) CONCLUSION
Through repentance and reconciliation, God invites us, to break the circle of sinfulness. Through reconciliation and repentance we acknowledge our sins, smallness, weakness before God. We are reunited with God and his son Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Lk.15: 10). In this third millennium, the Church is growing and moving very fast because of the modern electronics, technology, social science, medical science and especially computer science. Thus I can say, third millennium is called, "computer millennium", if you know the computer you can work anywhere in the field and even can build your relationship with anybody just sitting at one place. One's life and daily livings are becoming difficult. The people become advanced and they want to have everything computerized for their use. Science and faith are reselling and dancing in this circumstance. Human interest and approach in the community and in the society is becoming more materialistic and individualistic rather than spiritual and religious. The life is to collect money in order to receive the honor and prestige in the community and society a Christian's way of life is going down. Christian life is becoming very challenging because liturgical and sacramental traditions are not appreciated and encouraged. The people are not focusing on themselves neither, are they giving attention to self-supervision, which can help them to know their strengths and weaknesses. Strengths are our face value and weaknesses and sins are our improvements.

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