Repentance: The First Act of Righteousness

2010 Lenten Message

+Nereo P. Odchimar
Bishop of Tandag
CBCP President

The journey through the season of Lent into the Holy Week once again accords us an opportunity conducive to a sincere review of our life in the light of the teachings of the Gospel. Jesus’ compelling challenge: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel (Mark 1:15)” cohesively capsulates the true spirit of this season. Through the traditional practices of fasting and abstinence, we are reminded of a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways so that we can enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. By our prayers and reflections on the suffering and death of Christ , we intensify our awareness of the movement of evil and its devastating effects to ourselves and others. And more importantly, our discernments leads us to a continuous movement toward personal conversion and genuine social transformation as we look forward to Christ’s resurrection and salvific action on Easter Sunday.

How are we challenged individually and collectively as a community by this season of repentance and renewal? Rightly so, if we are to examine the very core of our being, we realize that our hearts innately crave for power, are attached to material wealth, content to maintain the status quo, and inclined to worldly allurements and other forms of selfish desires. All these have outward manifestations through the increasing cases of graft and corruption in many institutions, poverty, violation of human rights, vote buying-and-selling and other forms of electoral fraud, abuse of natural resources, land grabbing, and all forms of injustices.

The pursuit for good is a fundamental option among individuals. Our efforts of deep concern for the members of the family apparently show our yearning to provide them good and quality life. In fact, we advocate good governance and seek responsible leaders in view of establishing a just and peaceful society—where all may enjoy a fuller life. But above anything else, we take heed to this crucial call to conversion because God, the Creator and Ultimate Origin of all Good, has drawn us to Himself through His death and resurrection.

A transformed society is built of renewed individual citizens. Our Lenten journey leads us to that total personal renewal which has two decisive movements: the first crucial step is repentance. In his homily during Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father Benedict XVI said: “The first act of righteousness, therefore, is to recognize one's own iniquity; it is to recognize that it (sin) is rooted in the ‘heart’, in the very center of the human person.” This initial act, more than mere recognition, requires us to renounce our inordinate attachments, obsessions, addictions, and rebelliousness. We begin to empty ourselves of empty lavishness. The second step is believing in the Gospel—a necessary consequence of our remorseful rejection of sin. This subsequent step brings us to a new direction of life. At this point, we do not act according to mere impulse and human tendencies but illumined by the Gospel, we practice justice, we become peacemakers, and we love in a manner that the Lord Jesus Christ loves. We therefore set our eyes completely to Christ the very Person we encounter intimately in the sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist, the Living Word in the Gospel we preach, and the Paschal Christ we follow in this journey toward Integral Renewal.

Awake! The Day is at hand.