Out of the fire comes ashes. Allec Gomes@pexels.com
Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. I grew up in a church that did not observe the forty days of contemplation and repentance. We skipped all the unpleasantry and went straight for Resurrection Sunday. Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! Pass the Peeps!
It wasn’t until I began hanging around Catholics and working at a Jesuit university that I noticed that Lent was a thing. People denied themselves. Mostly, the denial seemed frivolous – chocolate (always a favorite) or coffee. Sometimes slightly more difficult things like my friend and her boyfriend forsaking kissing (which lasted, hmmm…not very long but their initial sacrifice was quite impressive).
Later, I started hearing about taking things on for Lent. Perhaps this came out of some positive-thinking theology. We are all good (amen) so instead of denying ourselves or reflecting on our (should I say the word?) sins, let’s do something good for Lent. And I like that too. What a great thing it is to do something positive during Lent. To give money to a different and worthy organization every day. To read the Bible consistently. To pray longer. To perform an act of service. To do something.
Maybe, this year, I’ll do both: give up something and take on something for Lent.
It can be powerful to deny yourself. When I reach for that piece of chocolate and remember. Not that I can’t have that velvety goodness, but I choose not to so that I can remember. I take a moment to consider the journey that Christ was on for those forty days.
Likewise, taking on something positive is also a cue for me to remember. When I do an act of service or do something out of the ordinary, I again take a moment to recall the journey that Christ was on for those forty days.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I am mindful that the ashes we will receive on our foreheads represent more than a smudge. They will remind me of the Ukrainian people, their cities being destroyed, and their valiant struggle. They will remind me of the Trayvon Martins, Breonna Taylors, and the George Floyds. They will remind me of sacrifice and lament.
The ashes tonight will be a visible reminder of the work that needs to be done to build a just world.
Building that world calls for denying ourselves and doing something. What better time to commit or recommit to that than on Ash Wednesday? Word has it that it takes an average of 66 days to develop a habit. 40 days is a perfect place to start.
Out of the ashes comes new life. Let’s make these next forty days count for something beautiful as we remember the journey of Jesus.