Come now, let us set things right,
Says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
They may become white as snow;
Thought they be crimson red,
They may become white as wool. †Isaiah 1: 18
When I was six, and my brother was about three, we decided it would be a good idea to shake a sealed two-liter bottle of soda and see what happened when you unscrewed the top.
I don’t think I need to tell you what happened.
We also thought it would be a good idea to do this on the same day that my mother had just washed the floor.
(The mothers in the audience are groaning right now, I know.)
As soon as we uncapped the bottle and the liquid starting flowing out onto the table and the floor, we knew we were going to be busted. And we were. Punishment was fast and furious.
I imagine that, to God, most of us are like my brother and I with the Sprite bottle. We do some pretty stupid things out of spiritual immaturity or ignorance, or even misplaced curiosity. (See: Eve, serpent, garden, fruit.) The Apostles did some stupid things—probably a lot of stupid things that didn’t make it into the Gospels. So we’re in good company with our mistakes.
But during Lent, we were called to “set things right”. God invited us to fix the things that have gone wrong. Because things go wrong; so wrong that God sent His only son to save us from our sins.
He is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
In Advent, the same theme is expressed—God came to Earth as an infant to save us. Because we needed to be saved. And in Lent, that baby boy is grown, and heading to the cross. We have been redeemed, because Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the first Easter. But still, we need to set things right.
Now, my brother and I didn’t mop the floor for our mother. At six and three, we probably wouldn’t have done a very good job. But we were punished for what we did wrong. And while we did many other things wrong as we were growing up, we never made that particular mistake again.
God doesn’t expect us to become instantly perfect. We fall, a lot. We fall repeatedly. To get back up, spiritually, requires confession, which I’ve already written about, Always Fresh.
During Lent, we should have pondered penance more deeply, more prayerfully. The three parts of Lent—prayer, fasting, almsgiving—help us “clean the floor”, so to speak. They cleanse our souls of what is not God and help us set things right with ourselves, the world at large, and with God. We were called to enter more deeply into ourselves and see what needed to be set right within us.
Lent doesn’t always go as planned, and it can be hard to do this work for forty days. The messiness of life creeps in, and we can forget “prayer, fasting, almsgiving.” No matter what God gave you this Lent, let us continue to go deeply into ourselves, pondering what we do, and why we do it—continue to go to confession, to fast more deeply on Fridays. Taking even a moment to steal into our interior deserts and beginning to set things right is better than nothing. It’s sort of like cleaning: even if you don’t have time to do everything, you can pick up the socks, put the used glasses in the dishwasher, and pull the stuffed rabbit off the top of the lamp before it catches on fire. It’s not a lot. But it’s a start, or a continuation.