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When I read and pray with Scripture, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a word or phrase to carry within my heart. Lately, it has been “an increase of faith” and “repent.” While they initially seem unrelated, I have quickly discovered that the virtue and gift of fortitude or courage are what I need to walk where He leads this Advent. 

In reading the Gospel for Gaudete Sunday, I was struck by this line: “Bear fruits that befit repentance” (Luke 3:8). John the Baptist did not mince words, and quickly warned against an entitled way of thinking: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’” (Luke 3:8). I read that and thought, “Do I think that as a religious Sister, true repentance is not for me?” My perspective on repentance changed and affected how I read the rest of John’s teaching. 

Repentance is not a simple “oops” or “sorry.” Instead, repentance is recognizing your sins and faults and doing something about it—in sum, changing. 

If we sincerely repent, the virtue and gift of fortitude will enable us to move through the difficulty of seeing our faults and patterns of sin, and changing. When we freely embrace this teaching, we quickly discover that it is our path to living life more fully, freely. 

Fortitude enables you to follow through with what you know needs to change or focus on what you need to do. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none.” 
    • If you have more than what you need, give it away.  
  • “He who has food, let him do likewise.”
    • Do you have more than enough food? Could you spend less and donate
  • To the tax collectors: “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
    • Do you have too high expectations of other people?
    • Do you always want more? 
  • To the soldiers: “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone.”
    • How do your words and actions affect other people?
    • Do you “rob” them of their dignity or good reputations  
      by abusive language, gossip, or slander? 
  • To the soldiers: “Be satisfied with your wages.”
    • Are you satisfied with what you have?

In living the Christian life, the virtue and gift of fortitude enable us to not only repent but to live rejoicing in the Lord always. St. Paul describes how we prove our repentance by acknowledging the One who is the source of our strength in difficulties (Phil. 4:13). 

During these days of Advent, let us heed the call of John the Baptist and prepare the way of the Lord by courageously bearing the fruit of repentance in our lives. 

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