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ON PENITENCE AND THE AVOIDANCE OF PRESUMPTION

John begins this step with a somewhat moderate and encouraging tone by describing repentance as a "renewal of one's baptism and a contract with God for a fresh start in life."  With repentance there is always hope and never despair.  As penitents we stand before our God guilty, but never disgraced.  Indeed, we inflict punishments on ourselves out of love for God, in an attempt to reconcile ourselves to him and to receive the peace that comes through his forgiveness.

However, if there is a step in the "Ladder" which pierces one's heart, if there is any part of the book which really shakes us and brings the message home, it is precisely this step concerning those blessed and compunctionate and voluntary inmates of "the Prison."  For truly these holy ones, crazed for Christ, described by John, are a mirror for us, the sluggish and indolent, to look into and to behold how wanting we are in the realm of true heartfelt repentance.  They were earnest and serious about their repentance; we are light and distracted concerning our salvation.  Some are repelled by the Prison of the "Ladder", while others are pierced and moved by the love for God and strength of soul of these stouthearted inmates, and mourn the lack of both in themselves.

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