Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. —Psalm 51:10
When I lived in Boston, one of my co-workers was excited to find an apartment close by our workplace downtown. Soon after moving in, Cindy invited the regular after-work crowd to come hang out in her new place. We arrived around midnight and eagerly began popping bottles of champagne to celebrate her new home. All of a sudden we felt a deep rumbling, seeming to come from the building itself. It became so loud that the entire place was vibrating. For a moment we were afraid that we were experiencing an earthquake. The only person who seemed to be unbothered was Cindy, who quickly explained that it was nothing. It was just the Red Line.
We were incredulous. So Cindy took us to her bedroom window, pulled up the shade and revealed the mystery. Her window was directly over the subway tracks that led to a station just a few hundred feet away. We couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly live with this. But Cindy said, “I’ve gotten so used to it that I don’t even hear it.”
As our after-work gatherings continued, something interesting occurred. Like Cindy, we got used to the sound of the Red Line screeching out of Park Street toward the MGH/Charles station. The once-deafening sound no longer had any effect on us.
Sin is like the subway train barreling out of the tunnel. And by “sin” I mean not only our personal transgressions—“what we have done, and what we have left undone,” as we say in the Prayer of Confession—but also communal sin, the systemic injustices that pervade our society. At first, sin stands loud and bold and is very much “in our face.” However, the more we do it, sin becomes so diminished that we no longer pay attention to it. It becomes commonplace, almost to the point of acceptance.
Lent is an opportunity to listen, and to hear. I challenge you every night before you go to bed to take an inventory. Have I offended another person? Have I turned away from human suffering? Have I been dishonest? For it is only in naming sin, in owning it, that we can begin to change and amend our lives.
O God of abundant mercy, give us the ability to see and hear you in our busy lives. Grant us the strength and courage to look inward, to look and listen for your abiding love. Open our eyes and ears so that we may better show Jesus to all those we meet. Amen.
Seamus Campbell is the director of Outreach Ministries for Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.