By The Rev. Matt Stone, Curate
Whether we like it or not, Lent is upon us. Like me, some people eagerly anticipate and appreciate this season of reflection and self-discipline. Others deeply dislike this somber season and look forward to the joy of Easter. Regardless of our orientation to these forty days, we hear an invitation to slow down, quiet ourselves and examine our relationship with God and our neighbor.
Perhaps we can ask some important questions during our own examination this Lenten season – how have we loved God, those in our lives, our neighbors and those different than us? Where is there separation, a lack of love, anger or fear? The temptation during times of repentance is to beat ourselves up. What if we engaged Lent as a time of spiritual growth instead? To confess where our love has fallen short and ask for God’s grace and guidance to grow in love as we prepare for Easter?
Speaking of confession, The Episcopal Church offers the Reconciliation of a Penitent in our prayer book. The idea of confessing one’s sins to a priest seems very intimidating. The season of Lent is an ideal time to try reconciliation, though it is never required in our tradition. In fact, the famous Episcopal saying about reconciliation is that “all may, some should, none must.” As you examine where your love has fallen short and the pain that has caused, you may find yourself desiring reconciliation, a safe place to share your burdens, seek God’s forgiveness and receive counsel. Father Daryl and I are both available to you at any time for the ministry of reconciliation and would be glad to answer any questions you might have about this rite.
The prayer book makes clear that “the secrecy of a confession is morally absolute for the confessor, and must under no circumstances be broken.” There are very few places in our world where you can go, share the fullness of who you are and what you have done with someone, experience forgiveness and encouragement AND be assured that what you have shared will remain private forever. Ironically enough, that’s exactly what love is — knowing everything about a person and still accepting them, caring for them because of their shortcomings. Like confession, love takes a risk. No matter what path you choose to walk this Lent, may it be a season to experience God’s love and forgiveness and strengthen our love for God and our neighbor.