Jesus said, “I tell you there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
We all do things wrong. I do something wrong every day. The goal of the Christian life is NOT to never do anything wrong. That is an unachievable goal. The goal of the Christian life is to glorify God (faith) by showing love to our neighbors (works). When we have failed to glorify God and love our neighbor, we are to repent. To repent means to change direction, and get back to the direction of loving God and loving neighbor. Repentance needs to be constant, because we are constantly doing things wrong. If I am driving and I cut off the car next to me, I should have something in me that kicks in and makes me realize “I did wrong there,” and for the rest of my drive, I should then focus on being a more conscientious driver. This is repentance. Hopefully, my repentance will carry over to ensuing trips in the car. When I fall again, again I will repent. The hope is that I will fall less often to the same sin. This is how we grow in both faith and in works, through continual repentance and continual improvement.
Jesus tells us that when we do something wrong, there is always a way back. And when we’ve done wrong, and we’ve made our way back, there is joy in heaven over our making it back. Let’s say that every morning, I put on my watch before I go to work. I do it every morning, I almost don’t even think about it. I don’t think how much I like it, I just take it for granted. And then let’s say, one day I misplace my watch at home. I don’t put it in the same place it usually is. I will initially get upset, I’ll look for it, and when I find it, I will have joy, more joy than the other days when I put it on without thinking. In the moment I find the watch, I will be glad because of how much that watch means to me.
In the same way, God doesn’t rejoice when we fall, but when we come back, He is very happy. That doesn’t mean we should fall on purpose, just like I wouldn’t misplace my watch on purpose. It does mean that we should have confidence when we fall, that God is eager to welcome us back, not glad to keep us out.
Every time a person goes to confession, it’s like there is a party in heaven, all the angels are celebrating the return of one of God’s children. We know the story of the Prodigal Son—the Father through a celebration to celebrate his son’s safe return. God, our Father, has the same reaction when we return.
Make daily repentance part of your life, meaning focus on at least one thing each day that you want to do better, focus on one way you can grow closer to God and to your neighbor each day, and God will be rejoicing for you and with you as well.
To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in Thee I trust. . .Make me to know Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation; for Thee I wait all the day long. Psalm 25: 1, 4-5
Repent (re-orient) in at least one way today!