Say sorry to someone
the booklet suggested, with apparent absence of guile...but in the event, this turned out to be a real stinker. All through the day I hoped that I'd do or discover something characteristically dotty which needed an apology - but nothing happened.
The trouble is that I'm not very good at being bad when it comes to other people (with one huge and painful exception) and on the whole I'm so apt to take responsibility for all the ills of the universe that a day set aside to say sorry seemed faintly farcical. But what to do? It seemed to me that saying sorry for something when the injured party is blissfully oblivious that they might be injured at all (most of my nastiness is of the internal variety - of thought rather than word or deed) would actually be compounding the issue...I might feel better for having offered an apology, but my "apologee" could well feel substantially worse.
So in the end I left it....
Except, of course, that I didn't - for today has been Ash Wednesday. How better could I express my sorrow and those habits of mind and will which I most regret?
I started the day by presiding at a lovely, intimate Eucharist - with the unspeakably humbling imposition of ashes on those familiar foreheads.
"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ"
I have a friend who substitutes comforting words from Jesus for these intimations of mortality. The penitents kneeling at his altar rail will be reassured that
"You are my friend" "I am with you always"...
One of our youth told me this evening that she really struggles with Ash Wednesday, with its doom and gloom and death - and I can quite see that this might be how it appears. For me, though, there is no foreboding in the words - simply a declaration of our common humanity, of solidarity in the face of time.
Always, as I mark those foreheads, I think of the people who knelt in their place a year ago, but are now dust themselves...and today we celebrated the life of one such, and committed him to God's care. The sun shone as the coffin was lowered into the ground, and the air was redolent with resurrection hope.
At the end of this morning's Eucharist, as I consumed the remaining wafers I had the sudden thought that each of these represented someone who would have chosen to be there if they could...so I made the act of consuming them into a prayer for each person in turn...L in New Zealand, E sick at home, M working out of town. Perhaps I'd been dim in not recognising this opportunity before - but the atmosphere in the chapel this morning made prayer (like penitence) easy.
Tonight I preached, suggesting that though taking on good projects was surely valuable, we must not hide behind Lenten projects to protect us from the interior work of facing and owning our own mess, repenting of it and then rejoicing in God's forgiveness.
After all, I think I did manage to "say sorry".