“Shriven – past participle of “shrive” – To hear the confession of, assign penance to, and absolve someone. To present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.”
Some people say they are the two most important words in the English language. “I’m sorry.” In order for a person to say those words it takes two things: humility and love.
What humility it takes to be able to speak those words! Persons who say, “I’m sorry,” have been able to take an honest look at themselves and see the ways in which they have fallen short. Such persons are able admit that they are not perfect and that they are actually at fault. A true, “I’m sorry,” is not and “I’m sorry.. but…,” as if one wants to justify their actions or somehow share the blame with others. A true “I’m sorry” is a courageous claim that a fault has been committed, the person themselves are to be blamed, and the only way to heal the hurt is to ask for sheer forgiveness.
What love it takes to say these words! What other possible motivation could there be to say “I’m sorry” except for love of the other person? Persons who say, “I’m sorry,” do so because they value the relationship more than the need to be “right” or to be “self-justified.” It is because one person loves another that they want to heal the hurt and run the risk of being vulnerable enough to ask forgiveness.
We are soon embarking on another Lenten season when we strive to be shriven of our sins by saying “I’m sorry” both to God and to our neighbor. We say this to God in this sacrament of Confession. We say this to our neighbor anytime we admit a fault and ask for forgiveness. But there is another “I’m sorry” that we need to hear… and we learned this from John Paul II.
At the turn of the millennium John Paul II publicly asked forgiveness for sins committed by members of the Church. Some of these sins have caused divisions and scandal. And the effects of these sins have often left lasting bruises and bitterness in many hearts. He said, “I’m sorry” to heal those wounds.
In the same way, on Ash Wednesday, as the pastor of St. Francis, I will say “I’m sorry” for the ways in which St. Francis’ priests or parishioners may have caused offence to others. Some persons have been offended by the weaknesses of the priest, the parishioners or the parish family. Some of those offences may have gone unresolved or may have left bitterness in a person’s heart. Pope Francis called parishes “field hospitals.” This means that a parish is where weak persons come to be cured. But sometimes those weaknesses can cause hurt even while we are all members of the same “hospital.”
And so I make the words of Scripture my own: “Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD” (1 Sam 15:25). In all humility, motivated by love, please join me on Ash Wednesday to heal the hurts of our parish by sharing in sincere forgiveness.