Lenten Penance Service

Readings: Colossians 1:9-14 | Psalm 112 | Matthew 5:13-16


saltlightAll of us disciples are given the great gift of grace so that we may be salt and light to the world. No gift, no treasure that we receive from God is ever something that is just for ourselves, but instead is always meant to be shared with others, and is always meant to give glory to God. The season of Lent gives us the time to look back on how we have unearthed those treasures and how we have shared them. If we have not used them to lift up others and glorify God, Lent gives us the opportunity to repent and turn back to God's vision for our life yet again.

We are a people called to be salt to the world. Because the world can be pretty bland at times, very blasé, very blah. How many people do we know who have given up on life, have given up on the Church, have given up on God? Have we ourselves seen so much violence on television and in movies, that when we hear about something like the NIU shooting, it hardly even shocks us? Have terrorism and fear become so commonplace that an increase in the terror alert status hardly even raises an eyebrow? Have we even stopped watching the evening news because it is just the same old thing, time and time again? In this political season, it even seems like the candidates really have to reach to say something controversial, for fear that they would not even stand out at all. It's sad that our world can be so bland at times.

The world needs our seasoning. We have to be willing to stand up and witness to a faith that is powerful, transforming and exhilarating. We have to be disciples who stand out in all the right ways, giving heroic example of the faith and encouraging others to follow. We have to be Christians who lead the world out of its blasé stupor and into the glory of the Lord's kingdom.

And so today we repent of the ways we have failed to be salt for the world. For the times when our example has been scandalous instead of transforming, we ask forgiveness tonight. We ask forgiveness tonight for the times when we ourselves have been made bland by all the world's dejection. We ask forgiveness for the times when we have not given our best to make our families, communities, workplaces, or schools places that season our world with the victory of the Cross.

We are a people called to be light for the world. Because the world can be very dark at times. So much so, that in our second reading yesterday, St. Paul said "you were once darkness" – not "you were once in darkness" but "you were once darkness" – darkness itself. I'm sure we can all think of some very dark things that we have seen in our world. War, violence and crime; abortion, lack of respect for the elderly, neglect of the poor; pornography, sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement. All of these and more contribute to making our world an extremely dark place. And worse yet, it's easy to get sucked into that darkness, to stumble around in it, and eventually to give in to it and become as St. Paul says, darkness itself.

The world needs our light. We have received that light at our baptism and it is our Christian duty to go out and let that light illumine some of the dark places in our world. In all of our thoughts, words and actions, we have to be people who shine the light of Christ on our world and dispel the darkness so that everyone can see the right way to follow.

And so tonight we repent of all the ways we have failed to be light for the world. We ask forgiveness for the times when we have been afraid to witness to Christ, or to call on people or groups to do the right thing in controversial situations. We ask forgiveness for the times when our own actions have contributed to the world's darkness, and especially when we have led others to sin by making the darkness, the sinful actions, seem okay. We repent of the times when we have just accepted the darkness as the way things are and have not stood up and been light for the world.

We come here tonight knowing our own brokenness. We have often been people who have failed to use the treasures of salt and light as we should, have failed to share them with the same generosity they were given to us, have failed to use them to give glory to God. We have at times contributed to the dark, blasé world in which we find ourselves. We may even have lost confidence that a world seasoned and illuminated is even possible. We may have said, "I am just one person, what can I do?" or "How are my little sins and imperfections going to really detract from such a big world?" And we know the answer to those questions, because the Scriptures have spoken to us in our hearts day after day after day.

It is in that spirit of brokenness that we come before our merciful Lord tonight. In this beautiful Sacrament, God's love crosses paths with our dark hearts and blasé spirits, and we receive the treasure of salt and light once again. Our sin is never more powerful than God's mercy, and all it takes on our part is a willingness to confess and repent and to take the opportunity for another chance to get it right, even if this is the umpteen-millionth time. Through the ministry of the Church tonight, God will give us all pardon and peace, and wipe away our sins so that our light can be seen and our salt can be tasted. Blessed be God who gives us forgiveness in Christ!