A Discourse on Repentance, Lazarus and Lent
The season of Lent is the perfect time for resolving or fear of these things through the tradition of repentance, reconciliation and reparation (or penance). These three 'Rs' can be rather daunting, or rather much more like a self-help plan. It's can be scary when we need to reconcile our relationships rather than being able to sit and stew being sorry for ourselves, no doubt you know that it's scarier still when we have to do this with someone a bit bigger than ourselves, for example: with a friend, a boss, a teacher... a God.
Now, concerning the 'S' word... Sin: repentance and reconciliation is not all doom and gloom, in the old fashioned, medieval-hellish perception in which it's normally perceived.
If one were to look in the dictionary; repentance is a feeling when one feels regret or remorse for their wrongdoing. In old-school orthodox language: 'sin is what kills the soul', quite frightening, indeed! Sometimes we are aware of a nagging feeling and know that we have strayed from what we know is good, and so, naturally the best thing to do when feeling repentant is to reconcile with what we wronged or hurt, commonly known as; an apology.
Travelling up to a set of highway traffic lights, a car meaning to turn missed the junction completely and had to travel through lanes of oncoming traffic in order to get to where he needed, it appears he either didn't trust his Sat-Nav, or was having a seriously bad day.
Sin is what keeps us away from the light of God, imagine: we are driving a car, but we travel far past the turning that we needed to take, and we know sometimes, annoying though it is, that the Sat-Nav was right... Sin obscures for us, as Christians, the most important thing, the presence, love, guidance and path towards God.
We hear Jesus talk about this when he is asked why he returns to the place he was ejected from, having had stones hurled at him, he replied to his disciples: 'Are there not 12 hours of daylight? Those who walk in the light during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.' And this is quite a profound thing, not only is it the invitation to follow him, but it is also where our choice is, our free will to say yes or no, to walk in the light, or stumble in the dark not knowing quite sure where we are, missing our turn. He then makes a great reference to the valley of dry bones: 'Our friend, Lazarus has fallen asleep, but, I am going [to return] there to wake him.' Just as Ezekiel did when prophesying the word of God on the piles of bones. There is a whole verse which contains only the phrase: 'Jesus wept', or 'Jesus began to weep'. And it was for a friend which he loved. Those who wonder and sleep are woken again by Christ, he dwells in those that walk toward the light, and, as a god that loves everyone, he weeps when we turn away.
There is a great speech from Pope Benedict XVI at the vigil for young people at Freiburg which addresses this, he said: 'There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen. Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in our lives we stumble and fall, as in how often with his help we pick ourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but he wants his light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and he wants to make you his friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians – not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because he, Christ, is your life, our life.'
It seems that even the holiest slip up, or did in the past when seeing God wasn't clear. So, I feel that it is fair to assume that if God can pick up and raise a dead man, he can help anyone pick themselves up, just like the Saints that struggled, and that all we have to do is ask, repent, reconcile and do a bit of reparation.
And this is achieved in the tradition of Lent. We have 3 things to do, not for a sadistic sake of just depriving ourselves of something for 40 days, but a purpose; to breathe new life on our spiritual bones in Prayer, Fasting and Charity. One of the greatest prayers, is that which allows God to enter us and lead us. Perhaps we can see the light of God being our Sat-Nav so that we don't completely miss that junction. Concerning fasting, I’m willing to wager you may have given something up for Lent, but one of the greatest charities is to show others the good news of God, and one of the persons of God which is Christ.
But, part of the issue with the concept of sin is that we do sin, we don't like it, but it happens. We completely miss the junction, and sometimes it happens a lot more than we'd like or feel comfortable remembering. But, it's okay, God's got you anyway because God, the Father, sent his son to radically change the way in which we may live our lives, so that we also may lead a life of sacrifice for the betterment of other things. We, during Eucharist (the sacrifice on the altar) must remember this. Christ, which took away the sin of the world through providing us with this great way for betterment, inevitably led to his death on the cross. We must remind ourselves that we are the people that live remembering and revering the life, death and resurrection, and we must be the people of death and resurrection, we must evaluate our relationship with God, and evaluate our lives and live as Christian people, to have new life, through the Eucharist, breathing on our dry bones, reconnecting us and living again.
I hope through this Lent that we learn to pick ourselves up again, without fear of reconciliation, of whatever we must do to fix the relationships which are truly dear, to trust in God fully, even when the going is hard, let us pray that God continues to enlighten our lives, continues to radicalise our living and breathe fresh breath to our bones and share it with others so Christ may wake the ones who have fallen asleep. As it says in the story of Lazarus; Our teacher is here, and he's calling you.