At the beginning and at the end of Lent, I am called to do two things that I find very hard.
To begin Lent, I must make the sign of the cross in ashes on the foreheads of people I love, and say words that pierce through all of our denial of death: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
As a “bookend” to Ash Wednesday, and to conclude Lent, I preside over a liturgy of forgiveness, which we just concluded at St. Stephen. Those who wish to hear words of forgiveness spoken over them come forward to kneel at the altar rail. One by one, I place my hands on people that I love and say the words, “In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sin.” With each repetition, I feel over and over again the full responsibility of my ordination.
It is an exhausting thing to do. But what good news I am able to enact and to speak.
And now, Lent has ended. We are into the Three Days.