Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are typically times of self-reflection and self-discipline. We are reminded on Ash Wednesday that “we are dust and to dust we will return.” In the Litany of Penitence that we say on Ash Wednesday, and in the Great Litany that we will say on the First Sunday of Lent, we confess many sins and say to God that we know we are sinful creatures.
It is easy to regard Lent as depressing or to think that it makes us dwell on our sins and shortcomings. There certainly is truth in that. But as I was reading the lessons at our early service yesterday, and as we recited the Psalm, I noticed a theme I had never noticed before. In the reading from Joel, the prophet says, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
In the Psalm from yesterday, the Psalmist writes that “He forgives all your sins … He redeems your life from the grave.” Most beautifully, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.”
Lent should be a time when we reflect on our sins and strive for amendment of life, but we should not lose sight of the equally important fact–that God is a loving and merciful God. Through our clear-eyed reflection on our sins, and on who we are, we can experience that love and forgiveness more deeply.