A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Sister Gemma Simmonds from the Congregation of Jesus.
A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with Sister Gemma Simmonds from the Congregation of Jesus
Depending on where you live today is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras or Carnivale. All these words denote the preparation for the penitential Christian season of Lent during which people traditionally abstained from all meat, eggs and dairy products, finishing up left over eggs, fat and milk by cooking pancakes or doughnuts. In places like Venice and New Orleans carnival has become a festive time with little sense of penance to follow. The French city of Rouen is in Normandy, famous for its butter. The city’s 15th-century Gothic Butter Tower, was financed by donations from wealthy citizens paying the church for permission to eat dairy products during Lent. It took 21 years to build, and the tower is very high so one imagines that a lot of butter was consumed in that time.
Penance is not all about mortifying the flesh, however. The word has the same Latin root as penitence or repentance, the desire to be forgiven. Jesus’ miracles of healing were often accompanied by the words, ‘Go in peace. Your sins have been forgiven’. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God has thrown away all our sins behind his back, and removed them as far as the East is from the West.
Forgiveness and absolution from our faults is God’s gift to anyone who truly desires it. To know that we are loved and forgiven sinners and that nothing we can do can ever separate us from God’s love is worth an entire butter mountain, let alone a tower.
Loving God, you forgive every sinner who turns to you. Help us to see ourselves with your truthful but loving eyes so that we can learn to forgive ourselves as you forgive us.