One word which marks part of our liturgy today is 'repentance'. For Christians, that means a heart-felt recognition of areas in our lives where we have not loved the Lord our God with our whole heart and soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. Inevitably, we have all got much to repent of in terms of how we could be disciples of the Jesus who asks us to walk with Him as channels of His healing and peace in a hurting world. And the Sacrament of Reconciliation is readily available to assist us with God's grace. As an institution, Church leadership has much to repent of regarding how we were church in the past. There are many people who have walked away from belief in God because they felt terribly hurt by those who claimed to speak of God and in God's name.
But repentance is not just a righteous condemnation of the past. When we look back in anger, there is also a danger. There is a real risk of criticizing the past for its inability to recognize some blatantly obvious truths then - but being much less able to see the faults in the present. The world is not divided into bad past, good present, or bad them and good us. Any simplistic division of time into bad Catholic past and good liberal present is childish illusion and delusion. Leaders in church, politics, business and community have much to repent of in how we are today as well. We do that so we can learn, not just to blame others but to be wiser ourselves. Sin and failings are not located somewhere else, in the foreign country that was the past. Human weakness is an active ingredient in current circumstances as well. Repentance is a call to look at me and at today, not just at somebody else and at their past. Lent asks us to reflect on what the next generation might condemn in how we contented to be today.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Here is an excerpt from the homily that Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor delivered on Ash Wednesday at St. Mary's Church in Belfast: