Yes, I am a sinner. And yes, I have been forgiven.

I am a sinner.

Father asked us in his homily today, “What are you afraid of?” And this was the answer that came to mind.

I am a sinner.

For the past few weeks, I have been struggling to come to grips with this reality. I didn’t want to admit it. I was afraid of what would happen if I did. But slowly, the veneer of perfection has been coming off and I begin to see myself the way I am.

I am a sinner.

I am weak and selfish and comfortable. I do not have the strength on my own to be a saint. I am in desperate need of God’s grace, and when our Lord assented to be nailed to the Cross, He did so because of me. I am the one who nailed Him there.

I spent a good part of the rest of the mass thinking about this, letting my heart break because of what I had done and who I had been. I looked up at the crucifix that hangs above our altar and I thought, “I really need You. And I am really not worthy of You.”

And then, a funny thing happened. A little shift in my perspective. As the priest walked down from the altar and gave me the Body of our Lord, I could see in his face the second half of the story.

Yes, I am a sinner. And yes, I have been forgiven.

Not only do I need grace, but grace has been given. Jesus did not only mount the Cross because of me, but for me. Yes, I have sinned against our Lord and caused the stripes on His back, But it is also by the stripes on His back that He has forgiven me.

How much time have I wasted being afraid, not wanting to see myself the way that I am for fear that realizing my sinfulness would mean that I was certainly lost? How long have I held myself at arms length from the One Who loves me for fear that, in the end, He would not? It is such a humbling thing to see yourself as you are, and to come before your God with that knowledge. It is a humbling thing to proclaim to yourself your desperate need for Him and allow yourself to ask for grace. And yet, this is the very thing that our hearts need the most.

I have a little prayer that I’m going to try to say in those moments when I feel the veneer of perfection start to harden, when the walls of self protection and fear threaten to come up again. It goes something like this:

“Lord, I am a sinner. I am weak. I do not have the strength to do this on my own. I ask You in this moment to grant me the grace I need to be a saint, to choose virtue and to stay open to Your love. I know I have great need for You. In this moment Lord, please help me.”

Friends, I pray that as Lent approaches we will give ourselves some time to remember this truth, the truth that we are in need of God’s grace, and the truth that, because of His love for us, that grace has been given. I pray that we will learn how to live gently and humbly out of that grace every day, and permit Him, with patience and hope, to make us into saints. A blessed Lent to you all.