Sackcloth and Ashes

October 5, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. (Jonah 3:1-10)

SACKCLOTH AND ASHES: If you are familiar with the Book of the prophet Jonah, you know that the actions of the king of Nineveh, and that of his subjects, saved the kingdom from destruction. They recognized their own sinfulness and repented of their evil ways.

In modern times, sackcloth and ashes may be overkill, but certainly spending time reflecting on how we live our lives is in order, as is seeking forgiveness for our transgressions.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us the opportunity to set things right with God. If we go to confession and then go right back to our sinful habits, we have not understood the sacrament. We also need to consider how we might live our lives differently. What can we do to stay away from the occasion of sin? What changes can we make in our lives?

As for forgiveness, reconciling with God is a great start. However, if my confession was about how I have hurt someone, do I need to set things right with that person as well? Humbling myself to both God and those we have hurt is needed.

Wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes, without true reconciliation and a commitment to change, will just make us itchy and dirty.

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