"Big Four" Highlights


Workings of Love

Reparation for sin repairs the heart

By Jason Godin

(This is the fifth column in a six-part FFG Lent series on making a good sacramental Confession.)  

In How to Make a Good Confession, Father John A. Kane identifies a fifth stage in making a good sacramental Confession – reparation for sins. It is the moment when one realizes that the hard and necessary (some would even say hardest and most necessary) work has only just begun. For forgiveness comes with a cost – not measured in worldly financial terms, but by a gauge of priceless faith. It requires remedying injuries inflicted on others by our sins, repaying God for his goodness by replicating it in the form of our own sacrificial workings of love.

This task has been undertaken by countless others over generations. Father Kane directs his readers to take a sideways glance at Good Friday to see one example – the thief dying on the cross, crying out for forgiveness and remembrance (p. 76; cf. Lk 23:40-43). There is also Mary Magdalene with her eyes, hair, lips and a heart transformed from the “self-desecration of her youth” to “permanent dedication of herself and her gifts to God” (cf. p. 77-78). In whom do they both find recourse and the foremost resources to help them carry on? Christ alone, with “voluntary self-oblation that gave all, even life itself, restoring to God whole-souled devotion and perfect love” (p. 72).

Such love appreciated in this way is a lesson that can easily shock us into stillness by both its suddenness and simplicity. Thankfully the workings of love themselves, brilliantly summarized toward the end of the chapter, move us to action in short order (p. 84):

“… fidelity in the discharge of the ordinary duties of our calling …”

“… singleness of purpose sanctifying the performance of our daily actions …”

“… the constant striving to compensate for bad example by greater good example …”

“… being a peacemaker where we have caused strife and discord …”

“… closing the wounds which we have inflicted on others through hatred or envy, by our own willingness to spend ourselves and be spent for them in a spirit of charity …”

“… thrilling with joy hearts that we have riven with sorrow …”

“… saying a word for the cause of Christ, where our cowardliness has betrayed it …”

“… foregoing our own wishes and interests, even our just claims, in a spirit of reparation for the disregarded claims and disappointed love of Christ.”

Read that list closely enough, it seems to me, and you can hear a saintly chorus singing support of its lines. Fulfilling our ordinary responsibilities with extraordinary purpose sounds a lot like the “little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. Battling hate in the world by bringing it the great love of Christ, hope in despair, joy in sadness, consolation, understanding, pardon and peace is the popular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi almost word-for-word. As for sharing the Good News so it can serve as first aid for the world – shouldn’t that serve as the slogan for us all, not just the saints?

Righting past wrongs involves compensation for damages done. It is an action of repair, renewal in an effort to make ready again. It is also in many ways the consequence of knowing the deep need for justice – and the part we must play in putting it into practice – in all our relationships within a fallen world.

“He came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.” History has no exact record of who said that phrase, but it could very well have come from Father Kane. As he shows, reparation for our sins isn’t short, easy or exacted as punishment. It is an opportunity to share workings of love.

Jason Godin is managing editor of Fathers for Good