One the earliest philosophical lessons I learned came from Socrates, through Alice von Hildebrand.
Wrongdoing creates "a metaphysical disharmony" in the universe; punishment sets it right.
A quote by John Paul II, highlighted by a friend on Facebook this morning, reminded me of it.
The conversion of the heart cannot ever fail to include penitence. In a certain sense this is its principal element. In fact, it is its essential element. Penitence means a profound change of heart under the influence of the word of God. It is a commitment to restore the equilibrium and harmoney shattered by sin, and to therefore change the direction of our life, even at the cost of great sacrifice. Repentence therefore is the conversion that passes from one's heart to one's concrete works and thus to the entire life of a Christian.
It also reminded me of our on-going discussion of true forgiveness vs. dysfunctional forgiveness. Those who preach the latter—who talk as if Jesus' death on the cross means that we don't have to be concerned with justice anymore, only mercy—miss this essential element of the objectivedisharmony and rupture created between persons by serious wrongdoing.
It's not repaired though the a cheap imitation of mercy that pretends it isn't there. It's repaired through penitence, that is, "a profound change of heart," expressed in acts of reparation.