Ash Wednesday is here and I’m struggling with sin. My sin.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offence, and my sin is before me always. Psalm 51
What’s the big sin in my life? I don’t think I have one! I know…I obviously suffer from the sin of pride and should immediately trot off to the nearest confessional. But, after a life time of catholic guilt, breast-beating and scrupulous fears of hell, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a bad person. I’m not perfect, but “sinner” isn’t my main identifier. I’m a person trying her best to be good. I’ve done nothing evil enough to warrant me parading through the streets in sackcloth and ashes.
It has been the role of the church for centuries to convince us that we are all grave sinners on a fast-track to hell. Instilling fear and remorse into her people ensured full pews and full coffers. Who knows how much irreparable harm has been done on minds, hearts, and souls through the years? How much continues today?
So, I struggle with the call to show outward signs for inner mea culpas that simply aren’t there. My days are filled with what we used to call “venial” sins, but aren’t these simply the stuff of our too human nature? Yes, I try each day to be a bit more patient and swear a little less, but I don’t go to bed worrying that an F-bomb has consigned me to the fires of hell. What does keep me up at night are the sins of this world and those who hold the greatest power over life and death.
Why should I fast, or cover my head with ashes for my misdemeanours, when the headlines each day uncover more injustices towards God’s people? More sexual and physical violence? More refugees forced from their homes and refused sanctuary elsewhere? More rich politicians who deliberately rob the poor to fill their own bulging pockets? More “in your face” white supremacy, hatred, misogyny, homophobia and racism? More threats of nuclear war by inept, egotistical leaders who get in pissing matches with each other?
For what do I fast and pray? Perhaps this is the answer…
For the sins of our world, and all who suffer directly from them.
For peace and justice in all our lands.
For peace in our hearts.
And to constantly seek ways to DO good, not just be good.