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12-4-19 - Fruit of Repentance

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

I can almost see the sneer on John’s face as he sees the professional religious folks coming to be baptized by him: 
“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”

Translation: "Who warned you to get your act together? Stop resting on your laurels as 'keepers of the law,' as inheritors of the promises given to your ancestors. What fruit are we going to see in your lives?"

What does, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance” mean? In part, that it’s really easy to say “I’m sorry,” and a lot harder to make the kinds of changes that render our “I’m sorry’s” unnecessary. John didn’t want people undergoing his baptism for show – he wanted them to take a serious look at themselves and recognize the ways in which their behavior or attitudes damaged other people.

Few of us in this era feel the need to mount a religious display for the attention it’ll get us, yet the call to repent and amend our lives comes to us as well. One way to meet it is to undertake an inventory of confession, to get below the surface at the more stubborn patterns of sinfulness that persist in us. This week you might try one of those. Here is a simple one – and it’s a good idea to write down your answers:

When did I last hurt someone I love? What did I do or say? Why did that happen – what “hooked” me?
When did I last hurt myself in some way? (Include food, insufficient rest and self-criticism…) 
  How did that come about?
When did I last hurt the creation around me in some way, nature, animals. Why did that happen?
When did I last hurt God – by ignoring or avoiding or defying? What happened?

For each thing you list, offer your regret and think about what would have to change in you to avoid doing that again.
What spiritual practices and messages do you need to build into your life to bear better fruit?
Invite the Holy Spirit into each one of those areas and ask God to release more life and love in you.

When our repentance is genuine, we’re more inclined to move into fruitful patterns of being and relating. And as we bear the fruit of repentance, the people around us will be fed on God’s love.

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