A recent line in the monthly Magnificat really struck me, “With joyful trust, let us own our sins before the Lord, who gladly forgives. (emphasis added) I was struck by the two phrases highlighted, as I don’t think I would have ever put them together like this.
First there is that thought of “owning” sins. How many examples do we have of people blaming others for their actions? It’s not just a recent phenomenon either, even in Genesis Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit, and Eve in her turn blamed the serpent. It seems like we all make excuses as to why we commit sin. Perhaps in analyzing what we did, we think that we could have made a different choice if the circumstances/people/weather/etc. were different. While reviewing our actions is a good thing, explaining them away is not. This idea of taking ownership for all our actions, including and especially those that are sinful, is a powerful step in developing our conscience. When we review what we have done and acknowledge those choices that damage our relationship with God, we are training ourselves to pay attention to what might tempt us and lead us astray. When we can recognize a situation that can lead us to sin, we can be attentive to the choices we are making, and with God’s grace, avoid those that lead us away from God. We cannot undo the actions we have already taken, but we can learn from them to avoid those situations in the future.
Acknowledging our sins is just one part of the equation. When we take ownership of our sins, we turn to God and admit our wrongdoing. We ask for His forgiveness and open ourselves to the penance assigned to us. It may seem a bit arbitrary when a priest assigns a certain number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys to say in atonement for the sins we committed. But it’s not just saying a few prayers; it’s taking the time to set ourselves before God and spending those few moments repairing the damaged relationship. Saying those prayers is the action we are taking to turn away from sin and turn back to God. What we often forget, or can’t imagine, is God gladly forgiving us. He wants so much to have a close and intimate relationship with us. How can He not rejoice when we turn ourselves away from sin and turn our hearts towards Him?
As we begin the penitential season of Lent, we have 40 days to dig deep into ourselves and find those deep-rooted sins that distance us from God. When we take ownership bringing our failings to the Lord for forgiveness, we are building a relationship that will bring us more joy at Easter, but that will only be a shadow of the final joy of being with the Lord forever in heaven.