On the Sincerity of Our Purpose of Amendment

First Point - It is not enough to have sorrow for past sins; we must form a sincere resolution not to commit sin in the future. We can judge of the sincerity of our sorrow for the past by the firmness of our resolution for the future. We have reason to believe that we are truly repentant for our sins, when we are faithful in keeping that resolution. The one answers in a certain manner for the other, but when we are lacking in the one, we ought to doubt extremely of our good faith in regard to the other. He is an impostor, not a penitent, says Saint Gregory, who commits the same sin, over which he has wept a moment before. Let the firmness with which you keep your resolution for the future, be the criterion of the sincerity of your sorrow for past sins, and of the integrity of your confessions.

Second Point - This resolution of amendment ought to be firm and steadfast. Weak resolves are not sufficient. In order to be truly penitent it is not enough to say, "I desire to amend." One must say, "I will amend, whatever pain it may cost me." Merely to wish to amend is the same as saying, "I will consent to renounce sin if it is not necessary to give up this or that pleasure." Merely to wish to amend is the same as saying, "God impels me by His holy inspirations to abandon sin, but I am willing to deceive myself by imagining that these holy inspirations are simply the impulses of my free will, and that inefficacious desires of conversion, are conversion itself." Is it not a false idea of amendment that has impeded you up to this time? Is not the weakness with which you have kept your resolution of amendment a proof of this?

Third Point - The resolution of amendment ought to be efficacious. "The sluggard wills and wills not." (Proverbs 13:4) Because he forms a weak desire of amendment he believes his resolution is firm. But since his actions belie his promise of amendment, in the depths of his heart he does not truly desire to amend. If we really desire to amend, we must make use of the proper means in order to arrive at that end. We must strive to overcome the obstacles that are opposed to our good resolutions; we must avoid the occasions that lead us into sin, however pleasing they may be to us.

Let the constancy and fidelity with which you keep your resolution for the future be the criterion of the sincerity of your sorrow for past sins.

Desires kill the slothful: for his hands have refused to work at all. - Proverbs 21:25

We err vehemently when we attribute to ourselves that which comes from God. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

- text taken from Meditations for Every Day in a Month, by Father Fran├žois Nepveu