Each year the Church gifts us with forty days of Lent, followed by fifty days of Easter. During this quarter of the Church year we have the opportunity to enter into the Paschal Mystery as fully as possible. Our everyday lives are filled with times of suffering and dying as well as times of rising and renewing. In Lent we are invited to unite our individual times of suffering and death with those of the broader Church and ultimately with those of Jesus.
The [following two reflections] were written by Sisters of Charity of New York and Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth of New Jersey. As daughters of Elizabeth Ann Seton, they minister to those who suffer in many ways: in hospitals and hospices, in classrooms and clinics, and in parishes and pastoral centers.
May our Lenten journey this year be one that will enable us to touch our pain, the pain of others, and the pain of the world in a way that will open us all to the healing touch of Jesus. (from the Introduction, Living the Days of Lent 2012)
Ash Wednesday, February 18, “From Ashes to Joy”
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face….your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:17-18
For centuries, wearing ashes – a sign of public humiliation – acknowledges Christian penitents as sinners, those who have turned away from God. During the ritual we are reminded that we come from the earth and at the end of our lives we shall return to the earth.
But viewed in the context of Easter, Ash Wednesday should be a day of great joy. As the Exultet proclaims, “O happy fault!” Only by acknowledging our sinful nature and repenting for the falsities and excesses of our lives can we change. Only by turning toward God can we be assured that we are more than dust, that we have been ransomed, that far more awaits us than the grave.
Today, as I wear the ashes of humiliation, may I be joyful, for today is the acceptable time to turn to God, to accept the grace of God. Today is the day of salvation!
First Sunday of Lent, February 22 – “Impelled by the Spirit”
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness…and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. – Mark 1:12-13
The rainbow promise and the dove came to Noah
after his forty days with a boatload of rescued beasts.
Like a dove the Spirit descended on Jesus
as he came up out of Jordan’s waters,
and he heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved.”
“…the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness….
forty days, tempted by Satan…with the wild beasts.”
The rainbow covenant with the whole earth promises
that the wild beasts, wild times, and wild places
are all part of our good space and place as the beloved of God.
A profound realization of whose we are,
a personal epiphany of how beloved we are;
do you remember such?
We may then be startled by the immediacy
of “being driven” by the Spirit
to our own “wilderness” of fears and temptations.
And then we remember: angels waited on him.
Make me know your ways, O Lord…
for you I wait all day long. (Psalm 25:4, 5)
Excerpts from Living the Days of Lent 2012, edited by Ellen Dauwer, SC, and Mary McCormick, SC. Copyright © 2012 by Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com
Read Charity Wisdom from our Founders and Friends for more lenten thoughts.