Last week Chaplain Steve and I celebrated Ash Wednesday in our parish, and at the Secondary and Junior Campuses. This celebration marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Students and staff were invited to receive the sign of the cross made in ash on their foreheads, with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” The words remind us that life is fleeting and fragile and that we are only human. Thank goodness! I was reading somewhere that “John the Dwarf”, one of the early Christian monks who inhabited the desert land of the Middle East, regarded believing that you are a wonderful person who can be whatever you want to be, as a crushing burden. That having to demonstrate how accomplished and good you are all the time, both to others and yourself, is exhausting. The ashes invite us to find time to just be ourselves. To find a quiet spot and perhaps in the stillness feel the loving presence of God who accepts the real us whatever that looks like.
The ashes are applied in the sign of the cross; the instrument of torture that a good man Jesus, was abused, tortured and broken on because he had the nerve to suggest that people needed to lift their game in their personal conduct and in their dealings with each other. The cross reminds us that we are all broken. No one likes to think that they get it wrong. But the thing is when we ignore the hurts and wrongs that we do to other people, or we don’t challenge others who hurt us, or we don’t challenge people when they’re doing the wrong thing to other people, those things don’t go away. They just multiply the brokenness in us and others. The church knows this only too well. The ashes in the sign of the cross invite us to find a quiet, safe space to reflect on the parts of us that are hurt or cause hurt to others. And again, my prayer would be that you feel the loving presence of the God who accepts you just as you are.
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.