Return of the Prodigal Son, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682), 1667/1670, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Fr Neil’s homily for Ash Wednesday, 2 March 2022

From Sermon 14 of John Donne, preached before King James I on the First Sunday of Lent 1626

Forgive me, O Lord; O Lord, forgive me my sins, the sins of my youth, and my present sins, the sin that my parents cast upon me — original sin, and the sins that I cast upon my children, in an ill example; actual sins, sins which are manifest to all the world, and sins which I have so laboured to hide from the world, as that now they are hid from mine own conscience, and mine own memory.

Forgive me my crying sins, and my whispering sins, sins of uncharitable hate, and sins of unchaste love, sins against thee and thee against thy power, O almighty Father, against thy wisdom, O glorious Son, against thy goodness, O blessed Spirit of God. Forgive me my sins against him and him, against superiors and equals and inferiors; and sins against me and me, against mine own soul, and against my body, which I have loved better than my soul.

Forgive me, O Lord, O Lord, in the merits of thy Christ and my Jesus, thine anointed, and my Saviour; forgive me my sins, all my sins, and I will put Christ to no more cost, nor thee to more trouble, for any reprobation or malediction that lay upon me otherwise than as a sinner. I ask but an application, not an extension of that benediction, “Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven.” Let me be but so blessed that I shall envy no man’s blessedness. Say thou to my sad soul, “Son, be of good comfort: thy sins are forgiven thee.” Let me be so blessed, that I shall envy no man’s blessedness. O say thou to my sad soul, “Son, be of good comfort: thy sins are forgiven thee.”