(Isaiah 2:12-18; II Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
Six years ago thirty-three miners were trapped a third of a mile below the desert in Chile. They were men of different temperaments and different religions. Some were willing to do anything that might set them free. Others were resigned to wait out there fate. There were faithful Catholics, fervent evangelicals, Jehovah Witnesses, and confirmed atheists. They would never have prayed together on the outside. But here supplication was the glue that held them together. “We are not the best of men, Lord,” they prayed. But have mercy on us.” They also confessed their sins to one another. One said that drank too much. Another, that he became angry too quickly. Another, that he was not the best of fathers to his daughter. And so, all humbled themselves before God. This is our task before us during Lent.
We have forty days to recognize our sinfulness and ask God’s mercy. Some of us will confess the same sins as the miners. Others will want to admit being concupiscent as youths. Others that they have been arrogant, contemptuous and intolerant – sins that bothered Jesus so much. We need to free our consciences of the burdens that have prevented us from giving witness to God. We also want to discern how we might more fully carry out God’s will.
During this time of repentance we pay greater attention to the traditional acts of piety. We fast from food to remind ourselves of our dependence on God. We assist the poor in thanks to God who has been so good to us. And we pray harder and more often that we may be faithful ambassadors of God. As the second reading has it, we want to move others to similar recognition of faults and commitment to service.