This post is part of the Lenten series “From Ashes to Glory.”
The fourth step in the Examen is contrition and repentance.
We can repent on two different grounds. First, we realize how much God loves us and how we have hurt God and let Him down. So we repudiate the sin and hate it for love of God. We can also focus on the ugliness of the wrong we have done, and so we repudiate the sin and hate it, because it is hateful in itself.
Today we often feel the sinful disorders in our culture more keenly than our own sins. We fret over failures more than we repent of them. Fretting sinks us into our selves; repentance opens us to God and stretches our caring to include others. Repentance also drives us to do things differently.
We repent when we name some act or attitude a sin. Then we admit our responsibility for that act or attitude. We acknowledge before God that I am the one who did this, and I did it freely. Admitting our sin, we repudiate it and set ourselves to do things differently in the future. Note that repent is different from regret. Repenting is between me and God; regretting is mostly about me.
Finally, in the Examen, we confront the same hard fact about human existence that St. Paul faced: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19). He kept sinning. But he accepted that God in Christ saved him.
Christ does not save us from a theory. He saves us from the actual sins that we inevitably commit. Praise God!