By Joel A Hess –
We will soon be singing o felix culpa as we march into the sanctuary to celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and for the dead: you and me. “O happy guilt,” Augustine exclaimed long ago as he reflected on the mystery of God’s ridiculous reversal of good for evil.
For quite a while, Lent has been a time of repentance. When we think of repentance, we think of sad songs that accommodate our Lenten reflection. We think of the rugged cross from our Christmas trees reflecting the outlandishness of our sins: chiefly that we would kill God. Indeed, we are monsters! For many, Lent offers a morbid Mardi Gras satisfying sneakily self-righteous Christians who love to say “I deserve it.”
Frequently preachers kindly describe sin as “missing the mark.” This is far from the truth. Instead, sin is turning around and shooting our instructor in the head, and then dancing on his body. The same hearts and minds that put God on the cross lie under your bones. The same desire to spit on the one who loves you causes you to throw a nasty eye at the driver who just cut you off. Jesus did not die for your parking tickets; He died for murderers, anarchists, porn addicts, and assholes. I hope you are one of those, because if so, Christ has a gift for you!
Perhaps we want to say that we missed the mark because we don’t really like to be honest about the depth of our depravity. We like to think that we can manage sin. We manage it by excusing it, finding reasons for our failures, blaming our society, parents, comparing ourselves to others, or even by going through the motions of Lent.
The business of all other religions is the disheartening task of managing sin. Jesus says, “Come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest!” Jesus didn’t come to help us manage sin. He came to kill it! Indeed, it was killed when He was killed.
It’s ok! You don’t have to offer reasons for why you acted how you did. You don’t have to create nice phrases like “I’m broken” to make yourself seem more deserving of compassion. You broke it, so say it!
We aren’t standing before Allah. We are standing before Jesus. Don’t be afraid of your sins. His death loves your sins, gobbles them all up, and buries them.
O felix culpa!
I love to repent, as stupid as it sounds. Well, maybe I don’t always come willingly, and that old dead man in me sometimes shudders loudly. And yes, sometimes God has to shock me into it, surprising me like Nathan pointing his finger at David, “you the man.”
Ultimately, though like a little child who loves to watch his pennies disappear in that plastic spiral thingy in the mall, I love to see my sins disappear in the wounds of Jesus, in the ever flowing waters of my baptism, in the flesh and blood under bread and wine.
So don’t be sad during Lent. Be happy! You may smile when you confess your sins. You may smile when you hear, “I forgive you.” This is the strangest exchange: how he loves you and me.
O felix culpa. O happy guilt, that we would know a joy greater than Adam and Eve knew even before the fall!