February 10, 2016
Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:
In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
(2 Cor 6:1-2)
Well, we finally come to it. The ominous, foreboding first day of Lent. Did you plan what you're giving up? Adding? Did you plan your specific plan to sainthood that is made or broken in the next 40 days?
Obviously, I'm kidding (or at least exaggerating). I have to admit though, I definitely fall into the admittedly-bummed-that-Lent-is-here camp Lauren referenced in her reflection yesterday. But the Church is wise because God is wise, and so this season that now stares us in the face is, ultimately, for our benefit.
So let's talk about it: Why Lent? Why gloom and doom? I mean, Jesus already won the battle, has been resurrected and rose to heaven. So can't we just do "happy" all the time now?
Ash Wednesday (and Fr. Mike Schmitz, who basically writes most of my reflections for me) answers these questions for us through a simple symbol: a cross, traced in ash, on our forehead.
The ash means that something is wrong in the world, something is wrong with us; before "repenting in sackcloth and ashes" was a thing, people in the worst place in their life (think Job) were often dirty, downtrodden, and beaten. At least I can't think of a positive situation where somebody would naturally be covered in ashes... So we wear ashes today to show that we recognize the imperfection in and around us, and that we want to turn from our sin, so that we have not received the grace of God in vain.
And to where do we turn? The cross. The ashen cross means that Jesus loves us and gives himself to us in the midst of our sin. We don't have to have our sanctification scheduled out, but rather we need to bring Jesus into our lives as they are: messy, imperfect, but declaring that we have been claimed by Christ. That's not to say that we don't have responsibility, of course, but as one of my mentors was fond of saying, "we let the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting." And today, with the cross on our forehead, we recognize that our freedom was bought for a price: the Passion of God's only beloved Son.
God has always deemed us worthy of infinite Love. He came for us when we called (or perhaps least expected). He didn't send a messenger, but His very own flesh and blood, and He gives us his Body and Blood daily preserve us for eternal life. Now is the day of salvation.
And lest we forget what we've been given, the Church gave us Lent, an important season to recognize our faults and failings and offer them to God. We work together to reconcile ourselves to God (2 Cor 5:20-6:2).
Praised be Jesus Christ.
P.S. If you are looking for some more Lenten inspiration, check out these videos from Ascension Presents and Fr. Mike Schmitz the HCC from my hometown.