Ash Wednesday: The beginning of a Lenten journey to forgiveness
Throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, we are urged to forgive—to delight in mercy, to forgive others as the Father has forgiven us, and to do it again and again…70 times 7. Why is forgiveness so essential?
As I look back on my life, the most significant inner journeys I’ve taken have been journeys of forgiveness. I’ve learned that the giving and receiving of forgiveness is the sharing of life, freedom and love.
But it’s not easy to forgive. There have been hurts I’ve held onto for a long time, resentments that have worn me down and kept me a prisoner. I think it’s very human to want some satisfaction for our suffering, or to retaliate, or to at least find some place to transfer the pain. This is why Ghandi said “forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” It takes courage to lay down our pride and ego in order to forgive.
But if we know the power and freedom of being forgiven, I think it’s easier to commit to the hard work of forgiving others. I think back on humbling moments of complete failure, and the vulnerability of standing before another person and asking for forgiveness. Those times when I received forgiveness are some of my most striking experiences of love. Forgiveness communicates that we are bigger than our flaws, that our humanity doesn’t make us unlovable, and that we don’t need to despair of our own sinfulness. To be seen so fully, with all of our ugliness and beauty, and still loved…I think this gives us the strength to become better.
In fact, the more I learn about forgiveness, the more I think it has a lot to do with a way of seeing. How much easier is it to forgive when we can see a person’s context, the whole history of their life and the brokenness that might have led to their mistakes? The longer view helps us to be compassionate and understanding.
But this seeing can go even deeper. During this season of Lent we explore the mystery of “atonement”-for Christians, this means our understandings of how we are made one with God through Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection. We are made acceptable to God because we are united in Christ, who is God’s Beloved. It’s our identity in Christ that God sees.
What would it be like if we could also see this great dignity in one another?
My challenge to us this Lent is to put on an attitude of forgiveness. Let’s embrace our opportunities to be channels of forgiving love, and to help free each other to grow in faith, hope and love. Most of all, let’s root ourselves in the mercy of God our Father, whose love through Christ Jesus makes all things new.
Let us pray:
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.