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Ash Wednesday – A Reflection

February 17, 2021
The clearest Ash Wednesday cross I have ever done… q-tips with ashes were distributed the day before to folks who would be Zooming in.

As we gathered for worship over Zoom this evening, I reflected how different Ash Wednesday 2021 was from Ash Wednesday 2020. We have gone through quite a wilderness experience that has lasted a lot longer than 40 days.

In 2020 we experienced so many lows as the pandemic roared across this nation and world like a tsunami. In the midst of such turmoil (pandemic and politics) it was often difficult to see the light and keep the hope alive. In 2021 we are hopeful despite not knowing the exact future (my crystal ball is broken). Outdoor worship with masks and physical distancing helps to safely connect us.

In 2021 I believe that we are being called to walk together on the road to God’s Shalom. For years Lent has been a time to “give up” something. In the past few years I have begun to see Lent as an opportunity to go deeper and meet God in the midst of the wilderness. In that meeting, that time of reflection I was offered a time to renew my strength and refocus my faith.

As this Lenten journey begins, my prayer is that lives can be transformed. My prayer is that this journey will lead us to hope, to justice, to peace, to mercy.

Thomas Merton talked about such a transformation in an 1958 essay, “Ash Wednesday” which was later published in his book Seasons of Celebration (p. 94).

Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as an inexorable judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.

In laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens — the crushing load of worry and obsessive guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a ‘burden’ of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders... It (penance) is only a burden to those who take it up unwillingly. Love makes it light and happy. And that is another reason why Ash Wednesday is filled with the lightness of love.

Dear reader, will you join me in this Lenten journey as walk together towards God’s Shalom and as we share God’s love?

One Comment
  1. Thanks for the reflection. It does feel like we’ve been living a year of Lent, where to love another required intentional acts on our parts. Thanks too for the Thomas Merton quote.

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