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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and almsgiving… These familiar words, spoken by the presider at the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, invite us to step into the season of Lent. I have written about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Today I will share a thought or two about self-examination. Funny, that the list in the BAS begins with examining the self, and I have unconsciously put off talking about it until now.

Self-examination is more than just looking at a reflection of ourselves in a mirror. It’s less about grooming hair, moisturizing skin, covering imperfections with foundation or using dental floss to rectify. Then again, the older I become, and the longer I look in the mirror, the more I recognize the effects that time, gravity, worry and responsibility have had on my face, a visage that doesn’t quite reflect the one in my imagination. The passage of time can bring a new humility.

The examination of self that we are called to embrace in this season of Lent is to go deeper than the surface of our skin. It is a discipline that invites us to examine our lives, our relationships, our friendships, our conflicts, our moments of unhappiness, sorrow and brokenness. Not an easy enterprise. It’s easier to talk about other people’s failings than to talk about our own. No wonder I put off self-examination. Then again, left to our own devices, and if you are anything like me, it doesn’t take long to simply make a list of all of our failings and to feel worse about ourselves. Is that the purpose of the discipline?

In our Christian context, examining oneself needs to be done cradled in the knowledge that you are beloved, that you are God’s beloved. That is not always easy to believe when your list of personal failings and faux pas mount. Then again, imagine holding the list of your failings and faux pas in one hand and in the other hand your bible opened to the gospel assigned for this coming Sunday. There you read in part… “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

We examine ourselves trusting in the love of God that is so deep, so broad, so all-encompassing, so compassionate as to give his only Son for you, for me, for the world. Love turns a list of failings into fodder for change, for service, for mission, for starting over. If God so loved the world, then we are compelled to do likewise. We are compelled to look in the mirror and see not only ourselves but to see the reflections of those who need us.

God’s divine love for us then compels us – allows us – to show mercy to each other. All of us fall short of who God has called us to be, and all of us are the beneficiaries of God’s generous Grace.  Let us be humble and merciful with each other, therefore, and tap into God’s love to forgive those failings and faux pas, as we seek to see the face of Christ in ourselves and in each other.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto