And so, among other things I’m giving up for Lent, I’m trying to give up the search to find some other hidden meaning. Perhaps I won’t get anything out of it. We don’t enter into the Lenten season practicing disciplines in order to achieve a particular return. It’s not an investment. Fasting and praying are not disciplines that we engage in in order to “cash in” on some prize later.
Oh, God, love – it hurts. It hurts to want to be loved. It hurts to refuse or betray love. It hurts to lose love. And the pastor or priest bending with blackened thumb and murmuring says, I see your pain. It is recognized. Today others will see it too. You have a chance. Love Made Flesh bleeds for you.
What more is Ash Wednesday than this? To bow the head, receive the ash, and be led by the hand to a time of fasting and prayer? What more is Lent than putting to death the inner persecutor and praying determinedly for the outer one?
On Ash Wednesday, we recall through word and ritual, and even rejoice in, the fact that the Lord our God can bring new life out of the ashes of our brokenness.