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Ash Wednesday and Hard Hearts

heart_stoneHere we are, another Ash Wednesday. This one comes so late, too. By this time last year Easter was clearly on the horizon, at the end of March. This year, we are just about to begin Lent.

Somehow, all I can think about is the dark of winter and Lent, and how light it will be starting next week. No, no, no… Something feels off about that.

It’s me that is off if I am honest; I don’t like change as much as I pretend to like it. Why can’t Lent always start in early or mid-February? My pretty, shiny stone heart likes it better that way! Insert pouting face here. I know that we got those ceramic hearts at mass this weekend… And I believe, as Fr. Jerry told us, that they are to remind us of God’s love, but my heart feels hard, resistant to change. Very. Resistant.

Oh Ash Wednesday, you are upon us. Today work was full of the usual “Ashes will be distributed at masses at 9, 12, and 6:30pm.” My goal is to avoid the church secretary’s tongue twister that offers the potential for mixing up ASHES and MASSES. If the “sh” ends up with the m, then the double s goes Continue reading

Wanted: You. By whom? God.

(Originally published at the Times Union.)
What is it about Ash Wednesday? What calls so many people into church? Is it the desire to show off our marked foreheads? If so, that runs in contradiction to today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;

But I got my ashes, shouldn’t people know? I mean, how can they not know?

I thought that I was announcing the Good News via the smudge on my forehead! Hey! Look! I went to church today and I am sorry for my sins! Can’t you see that? Continue reading

Ash Wednesday

Last night I offered a talk about being too busy for Lent. I’m not sure that I said anything helpful, but what was so helpful for me was seeing so many smiling faces before me. Thank you, what a turnout! I am really grateful to all who attended and to those who worked so hard to prepare our Mardi Gras inspired event.

Despite the fact that it looked like I was reading from my notes, as is so often the case, my written notes and the numerous words that kept tumbling out of my mouth bear little resemblance to one another, so printing any kind of text here is not going to work. Perhaps an appropriate title would be, too talkative for Lent? Yes! That is me!

On a serious note, we are going to go to church today to have our foreheads marked with ashes. We are going to be reminded of our death and we are invited to grow closer to God so that we might actually change. Repent, rethink, re-orient, restore. Return.

The first reading from today’s Scriptures, from the prophet Joel, is clear:

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,

While Joel then intones us to do a lot of mourning and weeping, we are also reminded in the Gospel a few moments later, by none less than Jesus himself:

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance…”

That’s pretty clear too!

We are invited to traverse this place, these forty days, bracketed between those seemingly opposing thoughts. Focus on the returning seems to be the message.

Our Ashes remind us that we are all going to die; our instructions for Lent remind us that we all need to live in a particular way.

Can we do this?

This is a journey, one that is not simply between God and any individual one of us.  The journey is made together. We are all ultimately alone with God in that moment of transformation that death brings, but resurrection is about the promise of Christ for all.

Have a good Ash Wednesday. I look forward to making this journey in community with you.

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