Many people who have been away from the Sacrament of Penance for a long time have said that they were afraid to come back to the Church because they felt like their sins defined them. That they walked around with some kind of scarlet letter on their persons. I think this is the experience that Isaiah is getting at when he says, “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.”
Our sins do not define us, they are absolutely not who we are, not who we have been called to be. We are called to be people who embrace repentance, so that we can serve and worship our God in integrity of heart. So for us, repentance has to include a commitment to justice for those we have marginalized. As the prophet Isaiah commands us this morning: “redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” Our penance and our righteousness has to be approached in humility, remembering that those who humble themselves will be exalted. And repentance has its reward, as the Psalmist tells us: “To the upright I will show the saving power of God.”
How do we need to repent today? What does that need to look like for us? Let’s take some quiet time to ask our God to guide us to humbling ourselves and repenting so that we can embrace the full graces of Lent.