In this photo, experienced evangelist Val Allen, of SPSE’s Boise team, talks with a man who recently came there from Florida. Kevin AKA “Road-rash Mo” told the team how he has been learning to ride his bicycle on the ice—the hard way. Besides lending sympathy, the Boise team also encouraged Kevin to return to practicing his Catholic faith. They gave him a map of local parishes within biking distance as well as a copy of the Catechism.
In another encounter during the same session, an interesting question arose: How do you handle it when your visitor is foaming-at-the-mouth-angry? As they do all other visitors, the Boise team tried to treat him with the courtesy and dignity due one who is created in the image and likeness of God. Although the man’s thought patterns were difficult to follow, it was clear that he also suffered from deep remorse.
But there is a big difference between remorse and repentance (or contrition). As St. Paul says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). Remorse (“worldly grief”) is a mere feeling—specifically, feeling bad about oneself. Yes, there’s a recognition that a wrong has been committed, but the response is one of self-condemnation—and that just keeps one in slavery and robs one of the hope for change. In other words, it “produces death”.
How, then, is repentance (true contrition) different? Where remorse is a feeling, repentance is an ACT OF THE WILL. The recognition that “I have done wrong” is followed by a humble turning to God (“Lord Jesus, I repent of my sin”) and the DECISION TO COOPERATE with the grace that God has promised so I never commit that sin again. (In other words, I decide to make JESUS CHRIST THE LORD of my life in actual fact.) The Good News is: this LEADS TO TRUE FREEDOM—the freedom to become the fully alive human being that God created you to be, to become a person who radiates the life-giving Goodness of God to everyone around.
Helping people make this move to true repentance is why we evangelize. Keep it up, Boise!