The beginning of Lent. This evening at church, Holy Eucharist with the Imposition of Ashes. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The priest smudges a black cruciform onto each of our foreheads. We speak words of penitence and list our shortcomings.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We confess all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives; Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people; our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves;...
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty; for all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,...
The list goes on. The sins are many. Our faults too heavy to bear on our own. The list is enough to put us under. So we say the words together, shoring each other up, acknowledging our shared guilt and our shared hope. We are a gathering of the trying-to-be-faithful on this day that marks the open door to grace.
I am reminded of the seal at baptism. The priest makes the sign of the cross with oil on the forehead of the newly baptized, and claims, "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own forever. Amen."
Yes, we fail. We sin and we hurt each other. We even do unspeakable things. But God, in Her and His boundless mercy, loves us and pours out grace and mercy upon us.
Thanks be to God.