We have never seen anything like this! (Mark 2:12)
This week, Lent begins. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, when we start our Lenten fast and preparation for Easter.
And Tuesday … Tuesday is what people nowadays call ‘pancake day’.
In many countries, that day is Mardi Gras - or ‘Fat Tuesday’, a day when all the rich food left in the pantry is cooked up and enjoyed. Even the name Mardi Gras has come to mean a party, a celebration, a time of enjoyment and excess.
In English, we have a rather different name. Not one that refers to partying or celebration, but rather to something much more serious and rather dour. We call it Shrove Tuesday, the day when we are shriven, absolved of our sins by making our confession to a priest.
The English, O the English: we don’t go a-partying like the Europeans, but we glumly traipse to confession, encouraged only by a pancake and some lemon juice.
Actually, this has long ceased to be our custom, and while we are likely to go confession at any time during Lent, we are unlikely to go on Shrove Tuesday.
But I wonder, is the forgiveness of sins so different from the celebrations of the Mardi Gras? We may look upon confession, in a dark box to a stern priest, to be far away from the party, but in today’s Gospel when the man had his sins forgiven - the paralysed man no less - he stood up for joy, held his head high, and walked before the crowd.
No doubt there was also a spring his step. Perhaps he tried a little jig. And the astonished crowd praised God.
What better celebration could there be?
Enjoy your pancakes. Go to confession. And celebrate the freedom and forgiveness you receive.