Lent is a wonderful time to celebrate the reconciling love and the healing grace our Lord offers us. Like all religious experience, Lent takes preparation.
Reconciliation is what God does. We prepare for it by opening ourselves up, by reflecting on the areas of darkness in our lives into which God so deeply desires to shine a light. It might begin with a simple question: Where might God be offering me forgiveness and healing?
If my answer is, “I don’t know,” then I have some reflecting to do. I can examine my life-what I have done and what I have failed to do-and see what graces are offered me there.
Coming to genuine sorrow for our sins is difficult. We might think that anything that makes us feel bad about ourselves is something to be avoided at all costs. If we avoid guilty feelings, we ask God to rouse in us a sense of embarrassment, leading to deep sorrow, about any way that we may not have been faithful, honest, loving, selfless, or generous. We can look at our responsibilities as neighbors, employees, members of a parish or congregation, parents, spouses, sons, or daughters.
We might be intimidated by the size of the problem that comes to mind when we ask where God might be offering us forgiveness and healing. It might be a pattern of bad behavior toward our spouses and family. It might be our vices. I might say, “I feel sorry for how I treat my spouse or my children.” We may feel remorse for all the good intentions that never make their way into action.
It is important not to stop there. No problem we have sums up all of who we are before God and others. The issues that come to mind might yield clues about some larger patterns. For example, I see that I tend to be loose with the truth at times. What does this reveal about me? I may discover that the real pattern of sin has to do with a deeper dishonesty or lack of integrity: hiding from God, leading a double life, not being who I really am called to be, trying to manage my life on my own terms, manipulating others for my own needs and desires. When the light of God’s love shines into this level of self-awareness, I am touched by a powerful experience of reconciliation. Even here, in a place I might be most embarrassed and feel most naked, God is loving me and offering me wholeness and joy.