Paths of Repentance

April 8, 2022

Pulled Toward Christ

The crowd pulled St. Mary toward the church, resulting in … self-examination and repentance.

St. Mary of Egypt’s life testifies to our Lord’s presence and power in our lives—even when we reject Him or do not know of Him.

Just as the crowd pulled St. Mary toward the church, resulting in her self-examination and repentance, we are often pulled into situations that offer us the same. We can walk away or renew our relationship with the living Christ. We have a choice. In the desert, Mary still struggled with temptations but was sustained by God’s power.

As Frontliners, we are pulled into crowds—in homeless shelters, flooded or burned neighborhoods, parking lots, food lines—the results of disasters and tragedies. It is humbling and rewarding work. At times it is overwhelming.

During one deployment as a Frontliner, I found myself questioning whether I should be bringing emotional and spiritual support to others. I was tired. I was angry at the storm that resulted in so much misery. I felt unworthy to exemplify a life in Christ, most aware of my own sins. For me that day, repentance was about laying aside my needs, my weaknesses, confessing that I was an unworthy servant, but by His grace, I would do what I had been trained to do.

That afternoon I encountered a woman whose husband had died months earlier, before the hurricane. Walking through the rubble of her home, she shared that she was a very private person and had never gotten involved in her neighborhood, despite living there for many years. “I just didn’t care about others,” she said matter-of-factly. “I just cared about myself and my family.” After the storm, her neighbors, aware she was alone, came to help her first, despite their own needs.

Wiping aside tears and pointing toward the IOCC truck, she added, “And now you are here too, asking nothing of me but to help. My actions were so wrong, and I want to do right now. What can I do?”

“Find another in need, and do what you can for them,” I responded.

Repentance takes us down different paths if we are willing. St. Mary of Egypt’s path was into the desert. My path was to this woman. Her path remains unknown to me, but watching her walk away that day, I have a pretty good idea.

This week’s reflection is written by Michaelyn Sloan, MsEd, a retired social worker, of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, IL.

Icon from IOCC’s image library.