“We don’t do Lent it’s not in our tradition!”
“Why dwell on what is negative in your life – better to shrug off the shadows and enjoy!”
The humanitarian sciences have over time produced, for discussion and peer review, the psychological benefits of the hitherto sacred realm of penitence, forgiveness and absolution. One only has to google “psychology forgiveness therapy” to access thousands of discourses on the topic. With the fine tooth comb of contemporary research techniques, they are able to untangle what the ancients have long known – the health benefits of coming clean in a community context and starting out with a new slate, untroubled and unburdened by burdens of guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and emotional hangups.
Today we are offered Psalm 32, an ancient song of joy at being released from the claim of bad feeling as the result of human failure. It is good to write your own words in contemporary language alongside the old lines.
1Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
6Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah
8I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
10Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.