As for the third gift..I conceived a strong desire to receive three wounds in my life; that is to say, the wound of true contrition, the wound of kind compassion and the wound of purposeful longing for God.Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love; Long Text Chapter 2
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice that you share the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed at the revelation of His Glory.1 Peter 4: 12-13
Contrition can be an uncomfortable word; it is certainly not particularly fashionable these days. And yet as it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, we have nothing to fear my friends. Contrition (repentance or penitence) requires us to face up to the gentle reality that not everything about our lives lines up perfectly with how perhaps God had intended it. True contrition can be wounding to our pride, revealing to us the imperfections in ourselves that we cannot always see, but are often so visible to others! Julian simply asks for wounds of contrition, not to indulge in any ascetic navel gazing, but in an honest realisation that through the sometimes painful process of self-awareness, the healing Grace of God can work in our lives to bring lasting change.
True contrition goes far further than simple regret, as regret is so often a passive, limited response. True contrition is active as it requires us to lean into God, depending upon him to facilitate a metanoia where we abandon our old-self and grasp with two hands the emerging new creation that already exists in our lives. Contrition leads to a desire for greater participation in the divine, loving nature of God. It breaks down isolationism in our soul and fosters an openness to those around us that allows lasting fruit to emerge, borne in the greater compassion that we have for the trials of our fellows. True contrition leaves Scars of Grace that mark turning points in our lives, altars to his intervention and signposts for others that we too are on a journey.