Saturday after Ash Wednesday, ECW/DOK Diocesan Quiet Day

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31).

The theme for this Quiet Day is supplied by our Convention this year: “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”  The words from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans are an invitation to go deeper in discipleship; as the Apostle goes on to say in the letter, “so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation of our way of looking at things and understanding them and responding to them is rooted in sharing the life of Christ. We do this in prayer and in sharing the sacraments. Renewal of our lives invites us to transformation: to go deeper and further in relationship with Jesus the Master.

Our Gospel today, on this first Saturday of Lent, provides a providential complement to our Lenten theme. Jesus’ words help us to take a step back to our fundamental condition as sinners, as those who are in need of the healing power of God. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31). It’s a remedial metaphor: sin as a sickness that needs a cure, and that requires a physician of souls.

Every Lent begins with the call to repentance, spelled out in the liturgy for Ash Wednesday. The custom that lends its name to the day, the imposition of ashes, is understood as “a right beginning of repentance,” and is accompanied by the confession of sin. The prayer of absolution tells us that God “desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live.” Lent is a penitential season: that is, a season of repentance, a time of turning, in which sinners are reconciled to God. As St. Paul says elsewhere, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Reconciliation requires repentance, the great theme of the season of Lent, a call taken up and renewed over and over again during this season.

Our Gospel for today underscores this emphasis. Jesus is marking out as his own those who need a physician: sinners, that is, all of us (!) who stand in need of the healing touch. We need the healing touch of the Physician of souls in order to be transformed, to go deeper and further in relationship. We need first to know who we are and where we are in order to advance. We need to be properly oriented. Our proper placement is as God’s beloved creatures, fallen into sin and death, rescued from destruction by the Savior. That’s who we are; our identity in Christ.

St. Augustine wrote in the City of God: “Anyone who has a work to do must keep these both [beginnings and endings] in view. Whenever there is motion, one must look to the beginnings of the action if one is to foresee the end. That is why an intention looking to the future must be connected with a memory looking to the past. For, no one can finish what he has forgotten that he began…when we make a beginning, it is the ending which we seek, intend, expect, and long for” (City of God 7.7.).

Today we keep both our end and our beginning in view: our identity as sinners, and our call to transformation. We’re called to take up Christ’s own identity as beloved children of God. Our intention is toward the future but we dare not lose sight of the past, lest we forget the work that we’ve begun. The work that lies before us is the work of repentance, but it leads to renewal and transformation. We’re called to go forward, to go deeper and further in. That too is the work of this day.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee