There is a lingering question that just won’t go away—what do we do with hidden and closed doors? My mind keeps going back to this question. I keep thinking of a door that is painted shut. It is not impossible to open the door, but it is next to impossible to open it without leaving some damage and scars. Perhaps this is why so often doors closed on anger, bitterness, and resentment are never opened.
The movie, The Straight Story, is really a story of reconciliation. Lent is also an encounter with reconciliation. Maybe each of us needs an encounter with reconciliation. A door limits access. That’s what a door is designed to do. When we seal the door of the heart, we lock in the past, but we also lock out the future. If the locked-in past is harmful memories of bitterness, anger, resentment, blame, then the locked-in past becomes a festering puss pot that needs release before it infects our personality, our whole being, our very existence. The journey of Lent toward reconciliation is designed to unlock the door and gently nudge it open so that the scarring is minimal. It is not painless because it requires moving from a position of pride to an experience of humility. In this sense it is almost counter-cultural. Bitterness, anger, resentment, blame tell the heart that it needs to forgive. Experiences of shame and embarrassment, usually locked out, tell the heart that it needs to seek forgiveness. The stronger these feelings, the more urgent the need. Sealing the door and doing nothing produces a lingering sense of guilt. There is also a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and “will you forgive me.” “I’m sorry” is a unilateral declaration and doesn’t really need a response, though often there is one. It might be a beginning gesture. Asking, “will you forgive me” needs a response and leaves the petitioner vulnerable while awaiting the response. It is the risk of vulnerability that takes reconciliation so much deeper. It is also uncomfortable.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an experience in which we ask forgiveness of God. It is the naming of personal failures in our relationship with God. This can be uncomfortable. The words of forgiveness, however, are a source of reassurance and often of great relief and joy. Why not unlock the door that has sealed past anger, bitterness, resentments as part of your Lent? Overcome any embarrassment or shame by approaching reconciliation with a sense of humble expectation of loving forgiveness. Open wide the door of your heart to Christ and experience the forgiveness of a gracious, merciful God.
Father Michael Doyle, O.S.M.