Rouse Your Conscience

From “On the Devil the Tempter” (387)

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: “Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified.” For this reason, too, the prophet wrote, “I said, ‘I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart.’” Therefore, you too should acknowledge your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for if you acknowledge your own sins you are slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: “For if you forgive you debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful, and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth,  I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching.

If, moreover, one lives a modest, humble life, that no less than the other things I have mentioned takes sins away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus, I have shown you five paths of repentance: acknowledgement of your own sins, forgiveness of our neighbors’ sins against us, prayer, almsgiving, and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your own wrath, be humble, pray diligently, and acknowledge your own sins. Poverty is no hindrance to carrying out our Lord’s bidding, even when it comes to that path of repentance which involves giving money. The widow proved that when she put her two mites into the box.

Now that we have learned how to heal our wounds, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ the king of glory,  and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy, and kindness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was Archbishop of Constantinople, and one of the greatest preachers of his era. He is traditionally counted among the Four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church. His feast day is September 13.

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