I’m so glad we have a God who forgives.

I need that forgiveness as much as you do, perhaps more. And you know what? A week later I’m doing the same things all over again. And it drives me crazy. What gives? Why do I do the same things over and over again?

On one hand, that question might be too difficult to answer, at least in any sort of complete way. Each of us is unique and that probably means that there isn’t any sort of answer that applies to all of us.

We all have different personalities and abilities and wants. We all have different life experiences. We all struggle with different things and different temptations and different desires and different fears. We all respond to these things in different ways.

And so, I’ll just talk about what I believe goes on within me — within my own heart and mind and will. When I think deeply about why I continue to do the same wrong things over and over, continue to sin in the same ways over and over one thing keeps popping into my mind. It is this: I think I desperately want to be forgiven, but I’m not quite as interested in changing my ways or amending my behavior.

I guess I want forgiveness without repentance. I guess I kind of want the easy way. There is no such thing.

Sometimes, we fool ourselves into believing that repentance is simply being sorry. Truthfully it’s pretty easy being sorry. Most of us are probably sorry for something nearly every day — an action, a comment, an attitude. Yet, just feeling sorry demands absolutely nothing from us. It’s just a step in a process — a tiny first step.

The biggest step comes next, the step that requires us to truly want to change, truly want to be different, truly want to be better.

Without this big step, this leap of faith, this giving in to God’s will over ours we will simply find ourselves right where we started — doing the same regrettable things over and over and over again.

Repentance isn’t actually in our minds, but is most perfectly shown through our actions.

Repentance isn’t something we think. It’s something we do. In Scripture, we hear: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” Repent — change your lives — change your ways — choose a different path. Simon, Andrew, James, and John must have not only heard his message and must have been open to it. When Jesus invites them to follow, they do.

In other words, whoever this Jesus was, whatever he was all about, involved a kind of rejection of what had been, a leaving behind of former ways of life, a reorientation from a life primarily lived for oneself to a life lived with and for Jesus.

And it is the same for us.

God doesn’t want us to remain the same. God doesn’t want us doing the same harmful or unhealthy things over and over and over and over again. He wants so much more for us. He wants a better life for us. He wants us to have a more positive impact on the world around us.

Put simply, he doesn’t want us to just be sorry. He wants us to repent. He wants us to follow and nothing need ever be the same again.

Deacon Stuart Neslin is a Parish Deacon and Parish Administrator at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rome.

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