This morning, I bid my wife, Leslie, a "Happy Ash Wednesday!" with a kiss - and why not!?!
Why not see the Lenten season as an opportunity to intentionally slow down, change gears, examine ourselves & as the prophet Joel says, "repent and return to me (God) with all your heart" (Joel 2:13)!?!
Although you wouldn't know it by looking outside this morning (for those of us in Southern Ontario) but Lent is a time of spring cleaning - a moving from the drear of winter into the thawing, newness & budding of spring! Think of it this way, "One liturgy refers to Lent as "this joyful season" because it is meant to lead us into the Church's springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin's winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges." (Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter)
Most view Lent as a time to "give something up" and while not a bad idea - it is not an end in itself. Otherwise, like that failed New Year's resolution or botched diet or dusty elliptical machine - we wallow in self pity & guilt as we fail to follow through with our 40 day commitment. On the flipside, we determine to rightly & positively view our "giving something up" as a means to the end of "returning to God with all our heart." So, how will we find a way to do this over the next 40 days? What are the things of life that distract us; take our focus; consume our time & resources?
Whether we fast from foods that comfort our emptiness, from caffeine or alcohol that keep us stimulated, from aspects of media or technology that keep us distracted, from words that keep us overly-enamored with our own thoughts, from mindless spending that keeps us numb, from addiction to the spotlight that keeps us dependent on other people’s praise…disciplines of fasting and other kinds of abstinence help us to clear the decks for spiritual action.
As we clear out the clutter in our souls, we become more finely attuned to what is really going on in our lives spiritually and the invitations that are there for us. As we experience a broken and contrite heart in the face of what we are seeing, the way is opened for God to teach us wisdom in our secret heart.
Ash Wednesday is also a day when we are invited to consider how we might shape our Lenten season in positive ways by entering into practices that help us respond to this deeper self-knowledge.
The Gospel reading for today (Matthew 6) highlights concrete disciplines that have the potential to loosen the grip of sin and distraction in our lives, thus creating more space for God. As we shape our Lenten disciplines, we might ask:
You are invited to check back daily as we journey through this Lenten season together - celebrating the joy of God's forgiveness and finding our hearts being warmed toward Him! Happy Ash Wednesday!