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Reconciliation, forgiveness, hope – and Lent
Denver Catholic Register ^ | 25 February 2009 | George Weigel

Posted on 02/25/2009 1:22:18 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham

Reconciliation, forgiveness, hope – and Lent

It was Mardi Gras night, 1995, and I found myself sipping bourbon at 40,000 feet over the Atlantic, en route to Rome where I’d been asked to address an international symposium on the recent Cairo World Conference on Population and Development; there, you may recall, adroit Holy See diplomacy prevented the Clinton Administration from getting abortion-on-demand declared a fundamental human right, equivalent to religious freedom or free speech. On Ash Wednesday morning, I set off in search of an English-language Mass and soon found myself at Santa Susanna, Rome’s American “parish” near the Piazza della Repubblica. The noon Mass was packed with local Anglophones, with whom I queued up after the homily to receive ashes. What followed was one of the shocks of my life.

“Be reconciled to yourself this Lent,” the priest intoned, imposing the ashes. To which I could only blurt out in response, “What did you say?”

Whatever Father X’s intentions, his admonition was a piece of psychobabble that badly misconceived the spiritual wisdom of the Ash Wednesday liturgy. The kernel of that wisdom is contained in the liturgy’s second reading, from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. There, Paul gives his apostolic mission a remarkable definition: undertaken in this “acceptable time,” it is a mission of reconciliation, and through it the good news is proclaimed that God has reconciled the world to himself, restoring man’s lost communion with his Creator through the gift of the Son.

The Greek verb used to describe this reconciliation has a particular edge to it: for what is being “reconciled” is not a bank statement and a check book, but a relationship—a relationship of love, broken by betrayal. Through that verb, Paul hammers home to gentile Corinthians a theme dear to the Old Testament Hebrew prophets: The relationship between God and humanity is not like that of a dictator and his subjects, or a master and his slaves; rather, God’s relationship with us is best understood by analogy to love. And the reconciliation that God wishes to achieve in Christ is the kind of reconciliation that follows infidelity in love.

This, and not some psychobabble about self-regard, is the reconciliation to which the journey of Lent calls us. Lent is the “acceptable time” in which we should seize every opportunity to confront our infidelities: not to wallow in guilt, but because recognizing the truth of our fallenness is the first, essential step toward reconciliation with those we have wounded and with God. The great Charlton Heston was once asked the secret of his long, happy marriage to Lydia; the man who had played prophets, kings, and presidents said, in so many words, “It’s not very difficult; you just have to be able to say, ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong.’” The inability to say that—or, more properly, the lack of a Someone to whom that can be said, a Someone with real authority to forgive – has cultural, not only personal, consequences.

In his 2003 apostolic letter, Ecclesia in Europa, the Servant of God John Paul II noted the sense of cultural malaise that permeated 21st century Europe—and then linked it to the basic human need for forgiveness: “One of the roots of the hopelessness that assails many people today is ... their inability to see themselves as sinners and to allow themselves to be forgiven, an inability often resulting from the isolation of those who, by living as if God did not exist, have no one from whom they can seek forgiveness” [emphasis added]. And what is true of Europe is also true of America, which is Europe transplanted: if there is no one to whom we can turn for forgiveness, we will turn in on ourselves—and we will find there no satisfying agent of absolution. Self-reconciliation is self-delusion.

Thus one good way to live this “acceptable time” of Lent is to discover anew the graces of the sacrament of reconciliation. Through those graces, we, like Paul’s Corinthians, can become in Christ the “righteousness of God.” Doing that is what keeps hope alive.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Worship

1 posted on 02/25/2009 1:22:19 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: A.A. Cunningham
This Lent, live as if Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of your life
Reconciliation, forgiveness, hope – and Lent
Intro to Fast and Abstinence 101
Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself (with Scriptural references)

40 Ways to Improve Your Lent
Everything Lent (Lots of links)
The Best Kind of Fasting
Getting Serious About Lent
Lent Overview

Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ [Devotional]
On Lent... and Lourdes (Benedict XVI's Angelus address)
Lent for Newbies
Lent -- 2008 -- Come and Pray Each Day
Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself

Lenten Workshop [lots of ideas for all]
Lent and Reality
Forty Days (of Lent) [Devotional/Reflections]
Pope Benedict takes his own advice, plans to go on retreat for Lent
GUIDE FOR LENT - What the Catholic Church Says

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2008
40 Days for Life: 2008 Campaigns [Lent Registration this week]
Vatican Web Site Focuses on Lent
Almsgiving [Lent]
Conversion Through Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving [Lent]

Feasting on Purple [Lent]
Lent: A Time for Prayer, Reflection and Giving
Denver Archbishop’s Lenten Message: “Restore us as a culture of Life”
Where does Ash Wednesday get its ashes?
Catholic Caucus: Daily Rosary Prayer for Lent

On the 40 Days of Lent General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI
Lenten Stations -- Stational Churches - visit each with us during Lent {Catholic Caucus}
Something New for Lent: Part I -- Holy Souls Saturdays
Reflections for Lent (February, March and April, 2007)
Lent 2007: The Love Letter Written by Pope Benedict

Pre-Lent through Easter Prayer and Reflections -- 2007
Stations of the Cross [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
For study and reflection during Lent - Mind, Heart, Soul [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast-Family observance Lenten season [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Pre-Lenten Days -- Family activities-Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras)[Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
40 Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent! [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]

Lenten Fasting or Feasting? [Catholic Caucus]
Pope's Message for Lent-2007
THE TRUE NATURE OF FASTING (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
The Triduum and 40 Days
The Three Practices of Lent: Praying, Fasting. Almsgiving

Why We Need Lent
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Why You Should Celebrate Lent
Getting the Most Out of Lent

Lent: A Time to Fast From Media and Criticism Says President of Pontifical Liturgical Institute
Give it up (making a Lenten sacrifice)
The History of Lent
The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence
The Holy Season of Lent -- The Stations of the Cross

Lent and Fasting
Mardi Gras' Catholic Roots [Shrove Tuesday]
Kids and Holiness: Making Lent Meaningful to Children
Ash Wednesday
All About Lent

2 posted on 02/25/2009 8:32:48 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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