Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Parce Domine, parce populo tuo. Spare, O Lord, spare your people. Nothing seems to shout Lent louder for me than the simple, quiet chant of this text. Ne in aeternum, irascaris nobis. Do not be angry with us in eternity.
We are about to enter into the depths of this season (so soon?). And yet, the significance of the season has its historic origins not so much in the practice of penance, fasting, abstinence, and almsgiving for the reparation of our sins, as it does in the preparation for the reception of the sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist. It began as a spiritual preparation for those to be incorporated into the very life of the Trinity: Sons and daughters of the Father through Baptism, tabernacles of the Son in Eucharist, temples of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. The complete package. As the time of the catechumenate grew for those preparing for Baptism we, the Church, began to reflect on the ways in which we had not been faithful to the promises that we made / were made on our behalf at our own Baptism. And in order to renew and proclaim those vows again at the Vigil and Easter Masses, we had some self-correction to make. Lord, have mercy, for we have sinned.
The sacrament of Confession/Penance/Reconciliation (each name speaks of a different aspect of the mystery of God’s mercy and forgiveness), since the fifth century or so, has been a sacrament that we are able to celebrate frequently. It is, unfortunately for some, like a carwash. I wonder sometimes what image of God is running through the minds of people as they confess on the other side of the closed window. Is it a God of judgment, one who will be angry with me forever? Or is it the God of mercy who makes my conversion possible and our redemption a promise? Are we children before God wincing about the punishment that is to come, or do we stand, waiting for the embrace that follows our humility and contrition?
The good news is that God’s mercy is so full that even our imperfect contrition (because of his just punishments, the loss of heaven, the pains of hell) is enough. But the point of Lent is to pass from this beginner stage to where we find sorrow for our unfaithfulness to our Baptism because I love you, Lord, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve…
Lent is a time to open the window in the confessional (only you have the handle in our confessionals) and trust God’s mercy that he will, indeed, spare his people because of his great love, if our love is also true. It is a time to focus beyond our sin, to throw ourselves into a renewal of Baptism as if we are seeking the grace of God all over again for the first time! Of course, there is only one Baptism—rebaptizing is not possible, as the reality of God’s life is complete. We have received it! It is a time to consider who we are now, and who God calls us to be. It is exactly due to the fact that we are incorporated into this trinitarian family at Baptism and Communion that our reconciliation and communion isn’t only as individuals, but as a community.
We invite you to join us as a community to celebrate this Mercy of God that calls us together and reconciles us to him and one another. We will begin at 7pm with prayer and examen of conscience as a group. During Adoration we will then have individual confessions—simple, short confessions of sins, without the expectation of counseling or long questions—and individual absolution. After confessions people will be invited to tie a knot in the new Lent altar cloth, much the same way we tie prayer quilts with prayers of healing for the sick. We will gather back when the line ends, pray a penitential act and an act of contrition together, a song, and depart together in peace. Confessions will go very quickly this way, if we all come prepared, and our parish will be blessed. See you Wednesday, February 24, at 7pm.
God bless you.