I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord,
to observe a holy Lent
by self-examination, PENITENCE, prayer,
fasting, and almsgiving,
and by reading and meditating on the word of God.
(Exhortation from Ash Wednesday Service, BAS pg.282)
Penitence – saying and showing that you are sorry. I think sometimes we see penitence and repentance as such a gloomy element of our faith – it seems so negative and pessimistic.
However, I think at its core, this ancient discipline is not about being chained and burdened by the weight of sin, but about being set free from it. Penitence, I believe, is profoundly positive and optimistic.
We do not need to approach penitence – facing our wrongdoings – with fear and trembling, because our God is a God of love and mercy, and full of compassion. We get to amend our lives, we get to confess our sins confident in God’s forgiveness.
Penitence can be difficult and uncomfortable; it can be a source of pain, fear and shame. However, exposing those things that we want to stay hidden to the light and love of God leads ultimately, I believe, to healing, freedom and peace.
How will you practice this discipline of liberation and healing this Lent?
Maybe you can show you are sorry to someone you have wronged. Maybe you can show you are sorry to yourself, if it is yourself you have wronged. Maybe you can confess your sins to God, confident in the Divine mercy and forgiveness. Maybe you can try to do one small thing to amend your life. Maybe you can rejoice in the freedom which comes from facing and naming those things that bring us pain, fear and shame.
Very soon we are going to celebrate the greatest and most ancient of Christian festivals, the thing for which we have been preparing ourselves this whole Lenten season. So, let us boldly practice penitence now, holding that Easter joy in our hearts; let us fearlessly repent, confident in the knowledge of Christ’s victory over the power of sin and death.
Thanks be to God!