05 Mar Transcribed talk – Power of Repentance – Fr Antony Parankimalil VC
God is good, All the time. All the time, God is good.
God prepares everything for us and so we should prepare for Him
During Advent we prepare to receive the Lord. Although it is about Christmas, for us it is now about the second coming and preparing for that. God has a character of preparing things before he makes us anything. He prepares many things for us and, in the same way, we must also prepare. And how do we do that? Through repentance and confession-cleaning our heart to invite the Lord inside.
If we look at the preparation God himself has done, we see that before He created the animals, He created the land. Before he created Adam and Eve, He created a beautiful garden for them. And so, we can see how much God took care of his people, even before they were born. In Genesis 2:8-9 we read, “now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. That means God himself prepared a garden before Adam was created. That means God himself has a character of preparing and we see this even when God was asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We read in Genesis 22: 13 that God had already prepared a ram for them “And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” And so, God always prepare things for us in advance, even before we come to realise this.
Before you even landed in the country you are in, God had already put people to help you. Before God created you He knew you as in Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord said, “Before you were born in the womb of your mother. I knew you before you were born. I consecrated you and appointed you as a prophet to the nations.“ This means God has a plan for you. He prepares the best for us. If the Lord is preparing so greatly with such great care for us even before we were even born, then what do we need to do from our part? Repent and cleanse our heart.
God invites us to repent
In Sirach 5: 4-7, we read that the Lord is inviting us today- “Do not say, ‘I sinned, yet what has happened to me?’ for the Lord is slow to anger. Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin. “Do not say his Mercy is great. He will forgive the multitude of my sins for both mercy and wrath are with him and his anger will rest on sinners. Do not delay to turn back to the Lord and do not postpone it from day to day for suddenly the Wrath of the Lord will come upon you, and at the time of punishment you will perish.” And so, do not delay to turn back to the Lord.
Ponder this question, if you die today, are you ready to meet Jesus face to face? If you die today. Are you ready to face Jesus face-to-face? Or will you say “Lord, I have to run to the confessional to make a confession. There are many people I’m not talking to. I’m haven’t made a phone call to my mom, to my in-laws. I have problem with my neighbor, my workplace. Lord. I know I’m not ready”. Do you expect to be situation like that? If we take one central message from the whole of Bible from Genesis to Revelation, this word will be ‘Repent’.
This is what John the Baptist preached in Matthew 3: 2 as he prepared the way for Jesus- “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” But in verse 8 we read why he is inviting us – “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” And so first, he is telling repent and secondly, he is telling us to bear fruit worthy of repentance. In verse 10 we read, “Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”. The Lord is therefore inviting us to repent. Repentance is bearing fruit for God because the axe is lying at the root of the trees. That means you do not know when you’re going to die, when you will meet Christ, and so we should not delay repentance.
During calamities, especially during Covid-19, many people, more than 1.5 million people have lost their lives. But here in Luke 13:2-3 Jesus asks a question- “He asked them. “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” So what is the message? The Lord is inviting us, through the calamities to repent. If not, we too will perish. This is not a sign for others but is an invitation for you. In verse 5 we read, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” And verse 9, “if it bears fruit next year, well and good, but if not, you can cut it down.” This means the Lord is continuously waiting for one thing from our life, our repentance.
In Sirach 17: 25, God is inviting us, “Turn back to the Lord and forsake your sins; Pray in his presence and lessen your offense.” One thing to point out is that Sirach 17:25 onwards is titled ‘called to repentance’. And so, the Lord is inviting us. Turn back to the Lord and forsake your sins.
Sin is not the problem, it’s the love for it
A question for you is, if you have sinned: if you have lied, if you have watched pornography, gossiped, abused alcohol, spent all your time in the gambling center, cursed someone or have used swearing words- Do you feel you have sinned inside? Or is there no feeling at all? If there is no feeling then there is no repentance or remorse. Or do you feel you have sinned and must return back to the Lord?
Maybe you shouted at your wife and you never feel like saying sorry? That means you don’t feel the need to repent. Or maybe you have offended your husband and you never lessened your offences. You never thought of asking him for forgiveness. If you don’t feel that you have hurt the other then you have not repented. It is not about the sin that you committed as Mother Mary tells St Bernadette, “I have no problem with sinners, my problem is with those who love sin. I don’t have a problem with sinners because they have a chance to repent and return to me, but those who love sin, they will not feel repentance”. Do you think it’s okay to keep shouting at your children and that you can get angry because you are their parent and so have authority to? That means you love sin- the sin of anger. And if you feel you can do anything to your wife and treat her badly with no remorse, then you love sin. But God is inviting you to “turn back to the Lord and forsake your sins; pray in his presence and lessen your offenses.”
A testimony of repentance
Fr George Panackal shared a testimony about a man who was living near the retreat center. He use to make fun of people and priests and would make various comments. He would always ask people why they go to the retreat centre. He considered the retreat centre as a place for drunkards, adulterers, alcoholics, people with so many problems. He did not want to go to the retreat because he considered them to be for programmatic people, people who drink, smoke, people who cannot adjust with their wife or husband, and so he would always make fun of them. Even when somebody said they wanted to go for a retreat, He would assume they had a lot of problems. He would always treat these people as lower classed people who wanted God compared to higher classed people who didn’t want God because they have no problems and were self-sufficient. However, one day he became very sick that his kidney failed and he was admitted to the hospital.
During that time, there was no one to help. Then a poor, uneducated woman received an inspiration during prayer telling her to pray for ‘Baby’ (his name). Although she was uneducated, so was John the Baptist. In the bible he was living in the desert. But his wisdom that came from his mouth was given to him by the Holy Spirit. The word of repentance was put inside him by the Holy Spirit. And so, education is not important to preach God’s word. It is not your qualification that employs you, or empowers you to be an apostle of God. You can serve God the way you are. If God can choose John the Baptist, He can choose you. That’s why John the Baptist had such boldness. He was never afraid of anyone.
The poor woman therefore visited the hospital the man was in. He was in ICU and was ready to die and doctors had no hope. He even told his wife to tell everyone. But that is the time the poor lady came at the door of this ICU and this lady asked his wife if she could meet him. At first the wife said no and that the doctors will not allow it. But the poor lady replied saying she had a message for him. So she asked the doctor but the doctor did not allow it due to possible increase in infection during this critical stage. However she insisted and the doctor became very angry. Then the lady asked the wife why she is not allowed in even if the doctor said there is nothing they can do. And with that, the doctor reluctantly agreed. Then the lady and the wife went inside and prayed for the man.
The woman, having received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, led him to repentance. She went through the Ten Commandments with him and he realised it had been more than 15 years since his last confession and that there was a lot that he had done. But the woman said “But the Lord will not reveal any of those things to anyone”
Through her, the Lord spoke the words of Job 14:17 and unraveled God’s heart and policy- “ my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity”. She told him that although he had many sins, God has covered all these in a bag, covered his iniquity and wants him to repent so that God will give him his life back. The man then began to cry and repent. After the woman prayed and left the hospital, the man asked if he could go to a priest to make a confession. The wife, after she saw her husband crying, immediately arranged a priest to come and he confessed. He therefore received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. To point out, this sacrament should not be confused- it is not a sacrament for death, but for healing. After this he slowly recovered and after just one week, he was completely healed and his kidneys started to work again. The doctors even believed it was a miracle.
The confession he made healed him. The man completely converted and changed his ways. He started to attend retreats and also took other people for retreats. His life was completely changed. And one word he held on to as a policy, after the many comments he used to make about people, was Sirach 5:11-12 “be quick to hear but deliberate in answering”. This means you must listen to what people have to say but not necessarily give an answer. This continues in verse 12 “If you know what to say, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.” He said, after his confession he took this word of God as a policy and now he hears immediately but is deliberate in answering and only answers if he knows what to say, if not, he covers his mouth. We too hear so many comments and gossip. We live in a world full of gossip and social media. Are we going to repeat the things that other people have said? This is not a Christian policy. This man, who converted took the policy from Sirach 5:11-12 after he repented. Whilst we prepare our hearts, this too should be our policy. If you know what to say, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.”
We have hope in God’s mercy
Going back to repentance in Sirach 17:25-26, we read “Turn back to the Lord and forsake your sins; pray in his presence and lessen your offenses. Return to the Most-High and turn away from iniquity and hate intensely what He abhors.” What is repentance? It is to hate intensely what He, the Most-High, hates.
Hate intensely: sin, immorality, impurity, watching impure things. This is repentance. Return to the Most-High and turn away from iniquity. Turning away from iniquity and hate what your God hates. Then in verse 29 we read, “How great is the mercy of the Lord, and his forgiveness for those who return to him.” Paul repented and returned to the Lord. How great was the mercy of the Lord. The prodigal son repented and turned to the Lord and how great was the mercy of the Lord to him. Zacchaeus repented and returned everything that he had collected unjustly, how great was the mercy of the Lord to Zacchaeus. The Samaritan woman repented and rectified her past sinful life and how great was the mercy of the Lord towards her. Remember the woman caught in adultery? When she repented and surrendered her life at the feet of the Lord, how great was the mercy of the Lord.
The holy Gospel, the entire Bible, is a story of those who repented and received the mercy of the Lord. They were all sinners. There is no one who is righteous. We have all sinned and fallen short of His Mercy. This is what we read in in the book of Romans 3:23, “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There is no one who is righteous, that means we all need to repent. We have all failed God, but we don’t want to be feeling self-hatred or guilty. If the woman caught in adultery can obtain God’s mercy then every adulterer can obtain mercy. If the prodigal son who messed up his life with all kinds of sin can obtain God’s mercy, you also have hope and mercy. If Zacchaeus, who collected money with unjust interest or took unjust tax, can obtain God’s mercy, you also have hope. If St. Paul, who he himself admitted was a blasphemer, a man of violence and even rejected God, can obtain mercy, you also have hope.
What then should we do?
In Sirach 17: 32 we read, “He marshals the host of the height of heaven, but all human beings are dust and ashes.” And so, why do we need to repent? Because we are dust and ashes. We do not know when we will go back to God and so the Lord wants us to repent. That’s why, for John the Baptist repentance is the conversion of our life. It is not just an idea. He taught us this, in the gospel of Luke 3:10 -14, to each one in accordance with their career, their profession, their job. John the Baptist, when preaching about repentance, “the crowd asked him, “What then should we do?” In the same way, even as you attend this daily retreat and service from Divine-UK, you too should ask the Lord what you should do. When we have the gift of repentance, we immediately ask what we should do to rectify. Is it our character of talking too much? Criticizing? Lying? Drinking heavily? But John the Baptist, “In reply he said to them, whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” God therefore wants us to share all the things we have. To show the fruit of repentance we must share the food we have, the clothes we have. We must have an eye towards the suffering of the poor. This is the fruit of repentance. In verse 14 we read, “even Tax Collectors came to be baptized and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them “collect no more than the amount prescribed for you”. Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation and be satisfied with your wages.”
A spiritual father once said, “nobody’s poor that they cannot share anything.” Maybe you think you are poor but there are many things you can do as an act of repentance and so ask the Lord what He expects of you today. Maybe you have taken money from different people and you could not pay them back but can you help the poor around you or are you tired of helping the poor? These are the fruits the Lord wants you to bear.
God’s mercy pours out when we repent
One of the most beautiful prayers we read is from the book of Jeremiah 31:19 onwards “For after I had turned away I repented; and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was dismayed because I bore the disgrace of my youth.” When prophet Jeremiah was saying this prayer, he had failed his God through the sin of his youth but now, he repented, and the moment he repented, he hears the voice of God. In verse 18 we read, “Indeed I heard Ephraim pleading: “You disciplined me, and I took the discipline. I was like a calf untrained. Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God.” This was not Jeremiah but Ephraim who was pleading and repenting, which the Lord gave as an example. And so, there was a time where he did not accept to be disciplined but when he repented, the Lord told him in verse 20 “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he the child I delight in? As often as I speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore, I am deeply moved for him. I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.” The Lord is therefore telling us that He will have mercy on all those who repent. The simple message is this, maybe you are broken and empty but the Lord says “I will surely have mercy on all those who repent.” Isaiah 55: 7 repeats the same message. God is inviting us to repent. “Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Do you need God’s mercy? His mercy will be poured out upon us when forsake the wicked ways, when we remove the impure thoughts. Then you will receive and when you return to the Lord you will receive God’s abundant mercy. God invites us all the time to repent and return to Him. We read in Ezekiel 18-21, “but if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right they shall surely live; they shall not die.” And so, when we turn away from sin, there is blessing.
There is a testimony of a man who was married but had no children, but he had an addiction to pornography. He was praying and attending a retreat with the main intention of having a child and felt so afraid and guilty as it had been five-six years and his mother even kept on asking him to have a baby. But when he prayed, the Lord convicted him. He told him to turn away from his sin and stop watching such impure things. The moment he repented and surrendered to the Lord, his wife became pregnant and he was blessed with a child.
God is therefore waiting for an opportunity to pour out his mercy and it’s when we repent that we obtain His mercy. The moment you renounce sin, God’s mercy is being poured out upon us and we read in verse 30, “Therefore I will judge you O House of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise, iniquity will be your ruin.” Repent and return to me. He is not tired of you, He is not angry with you. He’s waiting like He waited for the prodigal son. The Lord did not punish the prodigal son but waited for him. Rather, the prodigal son punished himself, not the other way round. The Abba Father did not do any harm to the prodigal son but the son himself put all sin, blame, and guilt and all his own doings upon himself. And what did the father do? He waited for the son to return. And so, let us repent and turn from all transgressions. In verse 32 we read, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.” And so, the Lord is calling us to do one simple thing- turn and live.
Bring people back to God
There is a story of an angel who visited Earth with the permission of Abba Father. When he met a lame man, he became very sad and he told the lame man. “I’m an angel of God, and I’m here to heal you but lead a life worthy of God and I will come back after one year to visit you.” Then instantly this lame man healed and the angel disappeared. The angel then appeared to another person- a leper. The leper was so excited to see the angel and asked him why he was here. The angel replied, “I feel pity for you and so I’m here to heal you but you must lead a life worthy of God. I will visit you after one year to see the fruits that you produce after you have been healed” and then the angel disappeared.
After a year, the angel visited the lame man, who after being healed became very rich, living in a big mansion. The angel, however, visited this man not as an angel but as a lame man and went to the gate of this man who had been healed. When he reached the gate, he asked the watchman if he could go inside but the watchman was not very happy as they did not like lame people coming to beg at such big houses. The watchman then went to go and ask what to do with the lame man. The healed man said that he had no time to see the lame man and so gave the watchman £10 to give to the lame man (angel). The watchman then went back and gave the lame man (angel) £5 and kept the other £5 for himself and he then disappeared.
The angel, disguised as a leper, then went to visit the leper who was no longer a leper but was healed completely. The moment the leper saw him, he felt pity and told him that he too was once a leper but that an angel of God came and healed him. He then took the angel (disguised as a leper) into his home to pray for him. The moment he entered his home, the angel revealed himself and said, “My son, I’m happy that you are producing the fruit of your healing. I want you to be kind to all the lepers, all the suffering, all the poor. This is what I want. “
In the same way, how many times has the Lord protected us? Healed us? Delivered us? If we look into the past, it is full of God’s mercy and providence. He was always kind to us. He has already made us His servants. You may have once been in wrong groups, relationships, friendships, but God delivered you from them and now He wants you to produce fruit by bringing people to God and telling them about His mercy.
There are many people who say that they have come to the Lord, but they cannot persevere because they are not bringing people back to God but the fruit of repentance is bringing people back to God, not just keeping it inside. James 5 :19-20 says, “My brother and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” And so, in order to cover a multitude of sins, what must we do? Bring people to God. That is the true fruit of repentance.
Seek His face and Return to Him
2 Chronicles 7:13 onwards we read, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land and send pestilence among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.“ This is God’s promise.
Prophet Daniel gives a similar example from his life. He tried to pray every kind of prayer but nothing happened. He repented, he confessed he returned to the Lord and pleaded. He was a prayerful man but he realised these prayers were not enough. He then declared 21 days of fasting and immediately when he decided to repent and pray, there was fruit, even though the angel had not reached him immediately. We read in Daniel 10:12, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words are being heard and I have come because of your words.” In 2 Chronicles the Lord invites us to humble ourselves during pestilence and calamity. He asks us to seek his face, turn from wicked ways and says that He will hear us. When Daniel had a problem, he repented and decided to take 21 days of fasting, and the Lord came. The angel came and said the words from Daniel 10:12- that he has come to answer him. What does this mean for us? The Lord is also inviting you to repent and return to Him. Then only will you see the great miracles in your life.