Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Good Grief

"...a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Cor. 7:10).

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the fourth chief part of the Small Catechism - that handbook of our faith and life.  And in this Sacrament's fourth and final part, we come to the word "contrition" for the first and only time in the Catechism.

"Contrition" is an expensive word, worth a very close look.  The adjective, "contrite," is used, among other places, in Psalm 51:17 (see above).  And Paul refers to it as "godly grief."

As for a definition of contrition: "The feeling and expression of sadness about one's sins" (Catechism Glossary).  Sorrow over sin.  But a sorrow that is beneficial.  In the end it may be Charlie Brown who has the best definition: "Good grief!"

Contrition is very valuable in the battle against the Old Adam, the sinful nature, the flesh.  It is the weapon of choice.  In the words of a hymn, "To mourn our sin and from it turn."  When we pray, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner," it must be prayed in a spirit of contrition.  And to this the old man can only surrender!

But I've learned something new about contrition.  That is, it comes from a Latin word meaning "to be bruised."  Good grief is a kind of spiritual bruise.  But then what do we learn in the Gospel?  "...a bruised reed He will not break" (Matt. 12:20).  And "He" is Christ!

You have to love the way this Contrition is followed in the Small Catechism by Confession, and absolution - and then rejoicing!

That is what it means to be baptized: to practice contrition, confession, faith in Jesus Christ - and love toward all.