‘My bad’: A reflection for the first Friday of Lent

Editors' note: Every day of Lent Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill will be providing audio reflections on the Psalms of the day as part of America's “The Word” podcast. 


Subscribe to “The Word” for free on Apple Podcasts
Subscribe to “The Word” for free on Google Play
Listen to “The Word” online with your web browser

For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always/ Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. ~ Ps 51:.5-6

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons depicts a man and a woman facing each other. Her arms are folded, forbiddingly, across her chest. The man is saying, “I’M SORRY – I WAS WRONG.” The caption reads, “WITH NO TIME LEFT ON THE CLOCK, THE SEASON ON THE LINE, DAN UNLOADS THE HAIL MARY FOR THE WIN – UNBELIEVABLE!”

Reluctance to acknowledge one’s mistakes is not limited to males, of course (although they may have a greater market share!). When caught in the wrong, most of us are inclined to defend, excuse or rationalize our error. It wasn’t our fault, we were just reacting to provocation, we didn’t mean our words to be interpreted that way—the litany of excuses can be long indeed.

“I’m sorry—I was wrong”—these can be hard words to say. But we cannot be healed unless we first acknowledge how broken we are, or as Twelve Step programs put it, until we make a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” We might not like what such an inventory may yield. But those items – pettiness, envy, excessive criticism of others, thoughtlessness, failure to listen, deliberate unkindness – those are what we must offer to God.

God wants nothing less from us than a heart and a spirit truly chastened by our deep and full awareness of our sin. The means to mercy is not by defending, excusing, or ignoring our offenses, but by humbling ourselves to say both to God and to others, “I’m sorry—I was wrong.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Give me the humility and the moral courage to acknowledge my sins both to you and to all those in my life whom I have offended. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Lent

The latest from america

This year’s W.Y.D takes place less than three months after the conclusion of the Synod for Young People that was held in the Vatican last October.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 21, 2019
On Jan. 18, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington. (Survival Media Agency via AP)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An exchange between Catholic high school students and a Native American tribal leader in Washington Jan.

Like most public writers, I was used to getting notes that were crude, crazy or even mildly threatening. Normally, I would say a quick prayer for these obviously troubled people and get on with my day. This time it felt different, precisely because the author wasn’t insulting or obviously deranged.
Rachel LuJanuary 21, 2019
In cities across the country, local activists marched in support of a progressive agenda centered on economic justice, racial justice and immigrant rights.
Brandon SanchezJanuary 20, 2019