Sundays in Lent – 5th Sunday

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​All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

Jer 31:34

I enjoy finding verses that put us all on equal footing. We can say that we’re all the same until we’re  blue in the face, but until we can read it in black and white I fear that some will not believe it.

The verse perfectly encapsulates that feeling.

All.

From least to greatest.

All shall know me.

I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

I have just come from reconciliation. I try to go once a season, more if there is something significant happening in my life – traveling, going on retreat, teaching a class. My church does a Lenten Penance Service for the parishioners together. You still have the privacy of the confessional, but your penance is said together. There’s music. I find it a very nice way of bringing the community together. Unfortunately, we had a snowstorm on that evening so I wasn’t able to attend, but I was able to make the time today, a week before my retreat, two weeks before Easter to go to reconciliation.

When I went in it didn’t feel like much, but it was the first time that I remembered my act of contrition card (I don’t have it memorized yet.) It was the first time that I made the sign of the cross and said, “bless me father for I have sinned.” It was the first time that I stated when my last confession was without being prompted. It was the first time I didn’t umm through my sins or wrongdoing.

It was the first time it felt normal-ish.

Remember their sin no more.

I go in, close the door, state my sins, talk, receive penance, and then I’m absolved. I don’t have to worry about G-d bringing it up like an ex might continue to remind you of that time you whatevered twenty years ago and that’s why you’re not married now. I also don’t have to worry about my priest remembering. I’m absolved, and it’s gone for both of us. All of us who seek reconciliation.

G-d doesn’t hold anything against us, and we should learn from that to not hold things against ourselves. Once we’re forgiven in the confessional, we should let it go and not feel guilty or bad about it any longer.

On this fifth Sunday of Lent, don’t forget your responsibilities for the Lenten season. Have you gone to reconciliation? Have you stuck by what you’ve given up or abstained from? Have you prayed more? Is there a special devotion that you like to pray to? Mine is Mary, untier of knots. Lent continues for another two weeks. There is still time to find your way. Each day is a new beginning. It’s not too late to start.

Reflection on Reconciliation

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​Tuesday night was my parish’s annual Communal Reconciliation Service for Lent. (We also hold one for Advent as well.) This Lenten service lets me reflect on sins and good deeds and everything in between. I’m mulling over a couple of reflections as I pray and contemplate my sins I’ve committed and what I want to ask absolution for.

The service itself is about an hour long with a short service, that includes what is typical for a daily mass: a reading, responsorial, and a Gospel reading with a reflection in place of a homily. After that we all recite the rite of reconciliation together and are given our penance. We then have the opportunity to confess and receive absolution individually with a priest. The lights are dimmed and we choose our line. There are four priests in four different areas of the church for privacy. Playing the piano begins.

Our director of music is on hand for the musical portions of the service, and he remains to play at this time sharing several quiet, contemplative selections. It is the predominant sound echoing through the chapel, bouncing and being enhanced by the church’s acoustics. That, along with the buzz of a few quiet conversations lays the groundwork for the continuation of reflecting on what we want to say to the priest. There are young adults from the confirmation class lining up in large numbers, some looking a little uncomfortable while they wait, but still talking and laughing a little bit. This is not their first confession.

I think for as important as reconciliation is, and it is important, it is also beneficial to remember that this is a routine; it’s a normal part of the everyday life of the Catholic. It is not anything scary nor should it cause apprehension even though for many of us it does a little bit. The one thing to remember is that lack of judgment that greets you in the confessional. The confession itself and the absolution received is often a relief, and sadly it barely lasts the commute home.

There is that split second of a moment – it might last as long as two minutes where I am without sin, absolved of everything, a clean slate to try anew to be a better person, a better example, a better disciple of Christ.

Sinlessness.

And then it’s gone. As I notice a hairstyle, or curse at the traffic; or the rain. I come home to arguing kids and can’t find the charity that I give to strangers.

But right now, at this very moment, I am free of sin.

There is also the non judgment of my pastor as I alluded to above. He greets me as a friend, calling me by my first and last name, that funny way that people do sometimes, with a grin and a twinkle in their eye. The smile is there to make me feel at east, but not simply for ease’s sake but because he lives the Gospel and confession, reconciliation, penance and absolution are simply one more part of it. One fo the sacraments that allow us to continue our journey and accept the other sacraments and responsibilities of Christianity. One more piece to this spiritual puzzle. He also commented on my shirt which sparkled in the candlelight.

Penance is not punishment as in you were bad, now you are punished. Penance is a consequence. Punishment can be avoided; consequences cannot.

Penance

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Tonight was our parish’s Communal Penance Service. There was no Mass, but there was music and contemplation and an opportunity for individual reconciliation. In addition to our pastor, there were four other priests hearing confessions and absolving. While we’re waiting our turn, the lights are dimmed and our music director plays several hymns on the organ. There is time to think and meditate on our sins and our transgressions.

When it was my turn my priest took my hands in his, and said my name. I’m still only comfortable going to my own priest, although the whole process of contrition can be quite nerve-wracking for me; it’s still new to me. His eyes are both serious and twinkly. He has such a good soul, a kind soul; it radiates outward and is such a comfort. I got very lucky when I wandered into this church three years ago. Someone (clearly) was watching out for me.

I expressed my regret and sorrow for my sins. I named two specific ones, and at the moment that his hand touched my forehead, his open palm on my head, his words on my heart; when he says that I am absolved, I can feel the weight lift. It is a weight that I don’t realize I’ve been carrying until it is gone.

I think I am finally ready for Easter. I’ve gotten through this first year as a Catholic (a reflection for a later time), Good Friday is approaching and the Lenten season is coming to a close. I’ve been trying to use these daily reflections to show myself how much I really do meditate on the words of my life, not only the Scriptures but all the words of my life.

Penance is part of those meditations, and contemplations, and absolutions, and forgiveness.

It is also a reminder that I am somebody even if I’m still trying to figure out who that somebody is.