Lenten Daily Reflection: The Friday after Ash Wednesday

Life is precious and on Ash Wednesday we are reminded that one day we will all return to God. What does that look like for you?

In Our Darkest Hour by Nancy Stoller


In our tradition, these words are spoken on Ash Wednesday upon the imposition of ashes in the form of a cross:


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


On this Ash Wednesday, in the middle of a pandemic, I find myself thinking about our common humanity, our complicated relationships with one another, and our rather simple yet incredibly challenging relationship with God.


It would seem that for the past year when literally the entire planet is having some version of the same common experience, we would be able to find ways to come together…as a community, as a society, in global partnership…to confront a common menace. But instead we have found ourselves in some of the most bitterly divided times in a generation. I don’t believe it is an accident…a coincidence…that we have found ourselves at this confluence of threats that include bitter political division, the real and immediate danger presented by both SARS-CoV-2 and our warming climate, the assault on truth, and the upheaval over unaddressed racial and economic inequality. And that is just in our country…significant strife and injustice are taking place all around the world. What is God trying to tell us?


Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.


I’m no scholar, so I don’t know when those words were added to our tradition’s lexicon. But I wonder about the intent of those early Christians as they formalized the season of Lent. To me, those words seem to be a punch in the face…an unsubtle reminder to check our human hubris. We get caught up in thinking we are so important…our institutions, our possessions, our jobs, our egos. There’s no distinction here…there’s no exception for rich, privileged people. No exception for poor people. No exception for white people or people of color…Americans, Europeans, Asians…presidents or prisoners…you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Is there any more profound statement of equality?


Lent in our tradition is intended to be a time of reflection and repentance…of prayer and fasting. In 2021 America, because of the pandemic we may already feel we are “fasting” because we are being deprived of so many aspects of normal life…including gathering together for Eucharist. But our deprivations are insignificant compared to those being experienced by so many others in our community, our state, and all over the world.


Maybe this Lent, our fast is not necessarily giving up alcohol, or sugar, or bread, or meat on Fridays, or Netflix…in our privilege we have those options. Maybe it could be taking a break from reinforcing our own beliefs and really looking to understand someone else’s life experience, someone whose “caste” is different from our own. Maybe it’s fasting from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever regularly occupies our screens that might narrow rather than expand our understanding, to help us focus on this immutable truth: we are all…ALL…equally beloved in the eyes of our loving God. And then, to do something constructive with that knowledge. Because what is the point of knowing this truth without acting upon it?

We already have a roadmap for this…which unsurprisingly leads to resurrection and our celebration of Easter. During the Great Vigil, we re-affirm our Baptismal covenant, in which (in part) we say we will:


Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and


Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.


“Seek”, “serve” and “strive” are verbs…they require action on our part. Our covenant requires us to act on the knowledge that we are, as Fr. Greg Boyle says, in “exquisite kinship” with all of humanity, even those at the margins, whom society has demonized or deemed disposable. “Beloved community” was the term Martin Luther King Jr. used to describe this…a society based on justice, peace and love of our fellow human beings. Easy to profess…yet so incredibly difficult to actually do. Respect the dignity of EVERY human being.


Maybe this Lent we can set aside time to pray about just those two parts of our Baptismal covenant…and think about the implications of what these statements demand of us as followers of Christ.

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


LISTEN TO "RISE UP, BE STRONG"

Click on the link below to listen to a song that compliments Patrick's reflection.

https://franmckendree.com/album/1438688/rise-up-be-strong

FURTHER READING

Click below to read prayers for racial reconciliation and justice.

https://liturgyandmusic.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/prayers-sclm-racial-reconciliation-and-justice-final1-3.pdf