The Power of Regret

No one reading today’s first lesson from Isaiah (Is. 48.17–19) can fail to be moved by the note of regret. Missed opportunities, the sins of omission rather than commission, how they lie heavy about us! But Isaiah is not talking about the regret we feel, rather he is expressing God’s sorrow at the way in which we have messed up. Yes, for once this is all about God, not us. The gospel (Matt 11.16–19) takes this one step further when Jesus voices his frustration at the fickleness of our response. We want the reverse of what we have. We fail to recognize the opportunities offered us, and ultimately, it is our loss.

I think these two passages mark an important stage in our Advent journey. They are the point at which we have to stop playing around, grow up and prepare for change. The call to live with integrity becomes ever more urgent the closer we draw to the Light. Today is the feast of St Lucy, whose name comes from the same root as the word for light. Under the old Julian calendar, her feast marked the shortest day of the year, when everything was at its darkest. There is a psychological truth in that. Very often our decision to follow Christ has to be made in less than ideal conditions, in darkness rather than light, and what spurs us on can seem, at first sight, negative. Our regret at misspent opportunities may provide the initial impetus, but it will not last unless something more positive takes its place. We have to hand everything over to God and allow his love to provide what we need to sustain us.

The movement from fear to love, from self-interest to God-interest, is the work of a lifetime, but we must begin. We do not want to hear on Judgement Day the Holy One lamenting our failure to co-operate with grace. Regret, like nostalgia, is a very adult emotion. Today we can see that it is also potentially a very powerful one. May St Lucy help us with her prayers to live up to our vocation:

Let the prayer of the virgin martyr Lucy support us, Lord,
so that with each passing year we may celebrate her entry into life,
and finally see you face to face in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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8 thoughts on “The Power of Regret”

  1. Thank you for an excellent commentary on today’s feastday and reading.

    I thought that I was getting serious, but Isaiah brings you down to earth with a bump. Our sins of omission are so many, how can we hope to recover from them?

    But, on the horizon is that bright light, the Star leading us towards Bethlehem and the Nativity – we put aside our cares and woes and prepare to worship the Christ Child – powerful imagery for Advent, Christ beckons as an innocent child to us to be that innocent child alongside him.

  2. It is appropiate that St Lucy’s feast day is near the shortest day because it is when life is darkest that a revelation can come to us, bringing good out of bad as so often.

  3. Regrets. Yes, I have a few!
    With the entrance of Gods word comes light so now I realise how I have missed Gods blessings in so many ways. How I thank him for his grace and forgiveness through Jesus.One thing I don’t regret is knowing Him and grateful that He calls me a friend.
    Thank you Sr. Catherine for another thought provoking blog.

  4. It gave me a strange feeling to learn your names were Catherine and Lucy when we first met: the names of my big sister who died of Lupus at 20 when I was 14. I still miss her, and hope, although unbaptised, she has been granted eternal life

    • Never underestimate the mercy of God. Another Catherine, her of Siena, records that in one of her dialogues she asked the Lord about the fate of Judas and received the smiling reply, ‘Leave Judas to me’ — meaning, I think, that God’s mercy surpasses all our understanding. Pray for Catherine, but do not doubt God’s love for her.

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