Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. … Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:1,7
My father was an Irish Catholic and a true believer. He was not a saint, but a sinner. He felt things so deeply, and often acted badly out of frustration, fear, and an acute sense of loneliness. Every day, he vowed to be better, to try and change; when he failed, he was contrite and prayed for forgiveness. He was a soul who struggled, and in witnessing his heartfelt pain that turned to a merciful God for redemption and salvation, I saw his absolute faith in the Power and Love of our Creator. My father gave me my complete faith in my Father in Heaven, and the altering love of Christ, and the unending consolation of the Holy Spirit.
My father died some years ago on a clear cold day in January. The night before his funeral, there was an icy snow storm that turned roads into a mushy mess and hills into treacherous slopes. Father Smythe was to have officiated at the funeral services. He was assigned as confessor to the nun’s monastery atop what is called “Sisters Hill”, normally quite curvy and steep but with the ice, impassable. A local priest was called in last minute, Father Kelly, an Irish Catholic, who made the journey to us along a safer path. My father would have loved how things worked out. Luck of the Irish!
After an intimate prayer service at the funeral home, our family and the priest made the slushy journey to the nearby cemetery for burial. While the snow had held off for a space of time, large lovely flakes began to fall in earnest as we laid my father to his final rest. My mother and I were the last to leave the graveside. “’Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,’” my mother quoted. “God is tucking your father in with a blanket of white.”
This Lent, give God your broken and contrite heart, that forgiveness may be yours, and your sins cleansed whiter than snow.