990. Does repentance take place in the physical or spiritual state?
“In the spiritual state, nevertheless it may also take place in the physical state when you clearly understand the difference between good and bad.”
991. What is the consequence of repentance in the spiritual state?
“The desire for a new incarnation in order to become purified. The spirit perceives the imperfections that deprive it of happiness, and seeks a new existence to be able to make amends for its faults.” (See nos. 332, 975)
992. What is the consequence of repentance in the corporeal state?
“The spirit advances in its present life, if there is time to repair its faults. Whenever your conscience bothers you or shows you an imperfection, you can always improve.”
993. Are there not people who only have the instinct of iniquity and are unable to repent?
“I have told you that progress must be unceasing. People who have only the instinct of iniquity in their present life will have the instinct of goodness in another, and to reach this end they are re-born many times. Everyone must advance and reach the goal; however, some do it more quickly or slowly, corresponding to the strength of their desire. People who have only the instinct of good are already purified, because they may have had the instinct of wickedness in a prior life.” (See no. 804)
994. Do perverted individuals who have not recognized their faults during their life recognize them after death?
“Yes, always and they then suffer even more because they feel all the wrong they have done, or which they have voluntarily caused. Nevertheless, repentance is not always immediate. There are spirits who stubbornly persist in doing wrong, despite their suffering. Eventually however, they see that they have taken the wrong path and repentance ensues. The efforts of higher spirits are directed to enlightenment, and you may usefully direct your own efforts toward the same goal.”
995. Are there spirits who, without being bad, are indifferent with respect to their own fate?
“There are spirits who are not concerned with anything useful, but still have expectations. In such cases they suffer in proportion to their inactivity, because all states and conditions must be conducive to progress, and this progress is carried out by the suffering they experience.”
a) Do they not have the desire to shorten their sorrow?
“Of course, they have that desire, but they do not have enough energy to do what would give them relief. Are there not many among you who would rather starve than work?”
996. Spirits see the harm that their imperfections bring about. How is it that any of them continue to aggravate their situation and prolong their state of inferiority by committing bad deeds and leading people astray from the right path?
“It is those whose repentance is delayed that act in this manner. A spirit who repents may afterwards be drawn back down the wrong road by other spirits who are even more backward than they are.” (See no. 971)
997. Sometimes, we find spirits notoriously imperfect who are very open to the good sentiments and the prayers said on their behalf. How is it that others, whom we believe to be more knowledgeable, demonstrate a severity and pessimism that no prayers can overcome?
“Prayer is only effective for spirits who repent. Prayers do not help people motivated by pride that compels them to rebel against God and persists in wrongdoing, perhaps going even further astray. Such individuals can only derive any sort of benefit from prayers when a glimmering of repentance appears in them.” (See no. 664)
We must not lose sight of the fact that a soul does not change suddenly after the death of the body. If its life has been disgraceful, it is because it is imperfect. Nevertheless, death does not make it perfect right away. It may continue its wrongdoing, holding false ideas and preconceived notions until it has become enlightened through study, refection and pain.
998. Does atonement happen in the physical state or in the spirit state?
“Atonement happens during the physical state through the trials to which the spirit is subjected. In the spirit state, it is accomplished through moral suffering corresponding to the spirit’s inferiority.”
999. Does sincere repentance during life erase the faults of that life and bring the offender back in God’s favor?
“Repentance helps advance the betterment of the spirit, however wrongdoing must be atoned.”
a) If a criminal says, “Since I must atone my past, I have no need to repent,” what effect does this have on him or her?
“If such person is hardened by thoughts of wickedness their atonement is longer and more strenuous.”
1000. Can we redeem our faults in our present life? “Yes, by making amends for them. However, do not assume that you can redeem them by making a few trivial sacrifices, or by giving away what you no longer need after your death. God does not value a fruitless repentance that is easily completed and costs no more than a mere smiting of the chest. The loss of a small finger while doing good for others erases more wrongdoing than any amount of self-inflicted torture undergone solely for one’s self-interest.” (See no. 726)
“Wrongdoing can only be atoned by doing good, and attempts at making amends are worthless if they affect neither one’s pride nor one’s material interests.”
“How can a person be rehabilitated by the restitution of tainted wealth after death, when it has become useless to them and they have already profited by it?”
“What benefit can people derive from the deprivation of a few futile pleasures and indulgences, if the wrongs they have done to others are not undone?” “What, in truth, is the point of humbling themselves before God, if they keep their pride before other human beings?” (See nos. 720, 721)
1001. Is there no merit in ensuring the worthwhile use, after we die, of the property we once possessed?
“Merit is not the word. Although it is better than doing nothing, people who give only after they die are often motivated by selfishness rather than by generosity. They want the honor of doing good without any cost to them. People who impose deprivation upon themselves during their life, reap a double reward, the merit of their sacrifice and the pleasure of witnessing the happiness they have caused. Selfishness is likely to taunt, ‘Whatever you give away will lessen the enjoyment of what you keep for yourself.’ The voice of selfishness is louder than that of charity, and too often it leads a person to keep what they have under the pretext of necessity. You should pity a person who does not know the joy of giving because they deprive themselves of one of the purest and sweetest pleasures in life. In subjecting a person to the trial of wealth, which can be very dangerous for their future, God places the happiness that generosity may secure for them within their reach, even in the present life.” (See no. 814)
1002. What happens when individuals acknowledge their faults on their deathbed, however, they do not have time to make amends? Is repentance alone enough in such a case?
“Repentance accelerates rehabilitation, but it does not absolve it. Don’t they have the whole future ahead, and new opportunities to make amends will always be open to them?”