Sunday, December 08, 2019

Fr. Ray’s Top Ten Reasons to Repent

David Letterman

(Second Sunday of Advent (A): This homily was given on December 8, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday of Advent 2019]

Comedian David Letterman was well-known for his “Top Ten Lists.”  He shared them periodically on his late night television program.  Well, today I will offer you my variation on this theme, by sharing with you my Top Ten Reasons to Repent.

I don’t think Letterman ever did that during his career.

Of course, there is one big difference between his top ten lists and mine: his were meant to move people to laughter (and they usually did!); mine is designed to move people to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

So here they are—Fr Ray’s Top Ten Reasons to Repent: 

Reason #10: Because John the Baptist told us to in today’s gospel reading from Matthew 3, and John was—in the words of Jesus Christ—“the greatest man ever born of woman.”  I think it’s a sign of wisdom to follow the advice of a person that Jesus thought so highly of!

Reason #9 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance is necessary to receive the Holy Spirit, whose fruits are things like joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control”—all of which we should want in our lives.  When the crowds heard Peter preach on Pentecost Sunday they were deeply moved and they said to him, “What must we do?”  Peter said, “You must repent”—those were his very first words—“You must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins; THEN you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2: 38)  Repentance is always a precondition for receiving the Spirit and the many good things the Spirit brings into our lives.

Reason #8 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance makes room in our heart for God.  As Bishop Sheen used to put it, “If you fill a box with salt, you cannot fill it with pepper.”  In other words, to the extent that our heart is filled with sin, to that extent it cannot be filled with God’s grace and love.

Reason #7 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance improves our relationships with other people—by the very fact that it improves us!  Do you enjoy being around people who never admit that they’ve done anything wrong?  I don’t know about you, but those are the people I try to stay away from!  People who will admit when they’re wrong and say they’re sorry—those are the people I enjoy spending time with.

Reason #6 why repentance is good: Because it brings us inner peace—and helps to bring about peace between us and others.  I think every priest can tell you stories of men and women who have made good confessions and then breathed a big, audible sigh of relief after they’ve been absolved.  They’ve repented in a deep and genuine way, and they experience a burst of peace in their hearts.


And, of course, if you have a situation where two people hurt one another deeply and then both repent individually, there’s a very good chance that they will eventually be reconciled to one another.  The chance of reconciliation is much less if only one repents—or if neither does.

Reason #5 why repentance is good: Repentance brings with it self-knowledge.  The person who recognizes his faults and admits them knows his true self.  The prideful person who never repents doesn’t know his true self (or perhaps he just doesn’t want to know his true self).

Reason #4 to repent: Since we’re all sinners, repentance is the only path to holiness!   If we weren’t sinners, it would be a different story—but we are.  Therefore it’s only by seeking forgiveness for our sins that we can move spiritually from where we are right now to where God wants us to be.

Reason #3 why repentance is good: It doesn’t cost anything (except a little humility and honesty)—which should be very good news in these challenging economic times!

Reason #2 to repent: Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, told us to!  In fact, it was the very first command he gave us in his public ministry: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  (Mark 1: 15)

And, finally, the #1 reason to have true, genuine repentance in your heart: Because without it, you can’t possibly get into heaven!  No repentance—no forgiveness—no eternal life!

This, believe it or not, is where I will end my homily today.  By my standards, I think you’ll agree, it was rather short.  Ah, but the real question is: Was it successful?

I wish I could tell you the answer to that question, but, unfortunately, I can’t.

Only you can.

Remember what I said earlier: David Letterman’s top ten lists were meant to move people to laughter; my list here is designed to move people to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Will that happen?
Only you can decide.

So my personal prayer today is that you will make this homily—that I worked so hard to prepare!—successful by your repentance and by your resolution to make a good confession sometime in the very near future.