A new form of the Act of Contrition that is being taught to children and is being picked up by adults is as follows: O my God, I thank you for loving me. I am sorry for my sins, for not loving others and not loving you. Help me to live like Jesus and not to sin again. AMEN.
One teaching of this prayer is that Christian perfection is to be found in living like Jesus. When Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday he wasn’t just redeeming historical humanity. He was also revealing God and teaching us how to live our own lives by his words and actions. One of the principal lessons taught is that we should respond to badness with goodness, enmity with love, violence with gentleness. This was in keeping with the rest of this words and teaching but particularly the Sermon on the Mount (“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:43-45). His whole redemption of historical humanity was taking on himself the badness of our sin and responding with the goodness of God’s mercy and love. If in baptism we were immersed into Jesus, then we should live a similar life and thus contribute to his redemption of the world.
This is both obvious and extremely challenging. Yet it was lived out by the early generations of Christians until a rationalisation was found for violence and war. The following is a mediation of Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy who brought all this to my attention back in the mid 1990’s. It is a bit long but the extra time to read it can perhaps be part of your Good Friday offering.
Gospel Nonviolence and Trust,
the sine qua non of Holy Thursday, Good Friday—and Easter Sunday
Nothing, but nothing, requires us to trust Jesus as does a commitment to completely give up the protection and use of violence and enmity in order to follow the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies. To daily chose to confront evil in every form in which it manifest itself through human beings—whether it be by deceitful words or by murderous deeds—with only Christlike Nonviolent Love towards every human agent of evil encountered, rationally necessitates believing that Jesus is absolutely trustworthy. “Jesus, I trust in you,” allows for no timeouts from trusting in Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as Lord, God and Savior.
When I chose not to follow Jesus and His Way—which are ineradicably one—I am choosing not to trust Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Word (logos) of God Incarnate. I am not simply choosing to distrust merely another smart or holy guy. When I distrust His Way, I distrust Him. When I distrust His teaching, I de facto say, “Jesus, I do not trust in you,” “God, I do not trust you.” As William James writes in his classic work on religious consciousness, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902):
“So long as any secular safeguard is retained,
so long as any residual prudential guarantee is clung to,
so long as the surrender is incomplete,
fear still stands sentinel
and mistrust in the Divine obtains.”
The Christian’s enfleshing of trust in Jesus in daily life, whether in common affairs or in crisis moments, is evidence of belief in Him as Lord, God and Savior, the Way, the Truth and the Life—as Him as risen from the dead. To not believe in Jesus as the Christ or as Lord may be a rational choice a person can make. To believe in Him, however, but not to believe Him is a self-evident absurdity. Partial trust of another human being can be reasonable. Partial trust of God can never be reasonable. After saying, “I believe in you, Jesus,” to then not believe the will of God as He reveals it by His words, deeds and person is logically and spiritually preposterous. It is the same as saying, “Lord! Lord!” but then not doing the will of the Father in Heaven (Mt 7:21-23). Chosen and enfleshed trust in Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, e.g., by rejecting without reservation violence and enmity and choosing only to follow Jesus’ new commandment, “love one another as I have loved you,” is the bridge of trust over which the Father walks to bring the almighty power of God, which is love, to humanity in order to heal and to save each and all by events that before they occur are beyond all calculation, imagination or prediction.
If total trust in Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love of all, friends and enemies, is missing from a Christian’s life or from a Christian Church’s life, their daily prayer, said in heartfelt sincerity must be:
Jesus, I trust in you.
Help my untrust.
For a Christian or a Church to knowingly and willfully remain in a state of distrust of God and His Word, and to simultaneously refuse even to ask God’s help in overcoming this nonsensical way of living a Christian life is itself a significant moral problem with severe consequence far beyond all human calculation, imagination or prediction.