FR. DAVE PIVONKA, TOR
In the gospel of Mark, this is the first thing Jesus says, so we should probably pay attention (Mark 1:15).
And then when Jesus sends out the disciples for the first time, he tells them to preach repentance. Think about that for a minute. The first message that Jesus wants to communicate and the first things his disciples communicate is the invitation to repent (Mark 6:12).
Finally, after Pentecost, the crowd is amazed at what has taken place. They then ask Peter what they must now do, to which he responds, “repent.” (Acts 2:38)
In my life, the most transformative periods have always been marked with a spirit of repentance. I need to be clear: this isn’t just going to confession; while that is a part of it, it is more than that.
It’s really a movement of God that allowed me to see my heart and to see how I was not radically living in a manner that was of God. That is not to say I was doing anything that was gravely wrong, but that I knew more powerfully that God wanted to purify me; he wanted to make me more like him, to make me holy.
Repentance was the grace that God was going to use to draw me to this. It was the kind of deep repentance that brought about lasting change, that brought real freedom. It was the type of repentance that gives us a glimpse of how our sin breaks the heart of God. It is an experience of the personal nature of our sin that we understand that we don’t simply break a commandment or a law but a relationship with the God who longs to love us and be in relationship with us.
I think most people think that repentance is something we simply make up our mind to do. We do something wrong, commit some sin, so we repent. But there is a lot more than that. I think there is a gift of repentance, or a spirit of repentance that comes from the Lord. And as I have been praying, I am pretty sure that God wants this for Franciscan University.
When I was praying earlier in the semester, I had the sense that the Lord wanted to pour out a spirit of repentance on our university community. At first, I thought that was odd because already our confession lines are a month long. Seriously, they are longer than the lines for the new iPhone.
But I sense that Christ desires to do something new, to work in our individual hearts and the heart of our university community that would lead us to a deep examination of conscience. I think we are being invited to ask God to shine his light in the deepest recesses of our heart and make visible to us our sin.
At this point we come to a keener understanding of our sin and the cross of Jesus. We come to a more profound realization that Jesus went to the cross in order to save us from our sin and that he wants to continually draw us deeper into himself so that we might experience mercy. This leads to authentic gratitude and joy for what Jesus has done for us. This is how we know that it is of the Lord: only grace can reveal our sin to us and then bring conversion and the healing power of God.
I want to invite the entire university community to ask God to be ever present with his love and mercy. As we draw closer to the beginning of Lent and throughout the Lenten season, I encourage each of us to ask the Lord for a true gift of repentance.
Take some time in whatever chapel you prefer and ask God to shower our university with this gift. At times it is scary, but ask him to bring to light whatever needs to be brought into the light so the power of sin and darkness may be broken. Pray that this movement of grace will be directed by the Holy Spirit and lead us to the joy and freedom that Jesus has won for us.
Please pray this for yourself and for everyone here at Franciscan — that we would be purified by his loving grace and be drawn deeper into the Father’s merciful embrace. I will be making this prayer, and I ask you to join me. It is only then that we can be fully who God desires us to be as individuals and as a university. Come Holy Spirit, let us begin again.