These are the days when saying the word ‘REPENT’ is like watching an actor in a vampire film hold up a Cross. The reaction is almost always the same, when it should be relief.
That is what Chesterton is is saying about repentance as well. It should be a joyful experience, not dreaded. This is what Zacchaeus models for us. ( Luke 19:1-10 ) ( And also does Scrooge which Chesterton discusses in another work)
Yet here we are with both the troubles of our nation and the troubles of the Church. Chesterton appeals to the thought of the two tied together and how repentance, real, joyful repentance has amazing effects in the temporal world. Dale Ahlquist in an article for The Catholic World Report reminds us of what Chesterton would say to us today about why we must not pay lip service to repentance, instead tying it to expiation and Christ telling us to “lay our gift at the altar” before expecting the full fruits of the Eucharist to be applied to us. Its not enough just to confess our sins: We must like Zacchaeus do *something* about them. It really is what makes us different from the world. It makes us shine and be salty. It reflects the powerful LIGHT of Christ and conquers the world. And who of us wouldn’t want to be part of that glory!
“The fact obviously is that the world will do all that it has ever accused the Church of doing, and do it much worse, and do it on a much larger scale, and do it (which is worst and most important of all) without any standards for a return to sanity or any motives for a movement of repentance. Catholic abuses can be reformed, because there is the admission of a form. Catholic sins can be expiated, because there is a test and a principle of expiation. But where else in the world today is any such test or standard found; or anything except a changing mood…?” – G. K. Chesterton, A Simple Thought, The Thing
“There have been times when the Church, rather than adhering to its own standard, has attempted to abide by the world’s standard. It has never worked. There have been times, says Chesterton, when the Church has been wedded to the world, but it is always widowed by the world.
And though the world tries to justify its own sins, it is still repulsed by certain sins. In the Father Brown story “The Worst Crime in the World,” Chesterton makes clear that the worst sin is the corruption of the innocent and debasement of virtue.
Chesterton, who is a prophet, talks like any other prophet. He talks about the need for repentance. “If we boast of our best, we must repent of our worst.” He says that, unfortunately, the warning, “Repent, before it is too late,” is hardly uttered until it is too late. “We have lost the idea of repentance; especially in public things.” And we have “an unfortunate habit of publicly repenting for other people’s sins.” But he also says, “I am convinced that no crimes, let alone confessions of crimes, arouse so much hatred as the spiritual insolence that refuses to confess anything.” And, he says, it is one of the glories of our faith that the very men who have to condemn sins also have to confess them.
He points out that when Christ says, “You are the salt of the earth,” he is addressing his disciples, that is, his priests. “Salt is not a piece de resistance. It is a corrective. It is the priest, not the man. The meaning of salt is that there exists something which we cannot live on, but cannot live without.” The laity needs the priests. But the priests also need the laity. Priests hold the laity accountable, but the laity also hold the priests accountable.”- Dale Ahlquist
“If we boast of our best, we must repent of our worst.” – G.K. Chesterton, On Paying For Patriotism, The Common Man, 1950