Ash Wednesday – 2022
It’s the beginning of Lent. The season provides an opportunity to set things right, to re-establish a right relationship with God.
I’ve been looking back over my past posts for igNation and have realized that I have written for Ash Wednesday each year. I was tempted to ask the blogmeister if he could find someone else to write for this year’s start of Lent.
Then I thought that I shouldn’t give up so easily. Perhaps, unbeknownst to him, he is being used by God to get me to dig deeper into what I am being offered in my own entry into this season.
In my first entry, I wrote about engaging with the rhythm of the liturgical seasons. It’s not necessarily helpful to get caught up in the repetitive nature of the seasons. “Aw, gee, here we go again! Another Ash Wednesday!” Rather, can I see how the turning of the liturgical seasons can help me to deepen my interior life
and my commitment to God? So, how have I grown since last Lent? Or, a sobering thought – how have I been resistant to growth in the ways of God? I can either see the repetitive nature of this day, or I can see that I am being invited to deepen God’s grace within me.
In that first posting, I likened rhythm to the Ignatian notion of spiritual consolation. It happens when I am in sync with the movements of God’s action in the world. Spiritual desolation is the opposite of that. It happens when I am caught in a lifeless rut and the monotony of routine. In that case, I am out of tune with the movements of God.
Back to the question. How have I grown? It’s hard to measure growth in my spiritual life. With physical growth, I can take out the tape measure or I can assess my Body Mass Index (BMI) or I can weigh myself on the scale. Financial growth is measured with a calculator and the hope that my bank account has a healthy bottom line.
But what about interior growth? As far as I know, there is no organ to assess, nor is there a simple blood test that measures spiritual growth. I suppose that one could take a look at MRI results and measure how my brain scans show that I have grown in peace, contentment and happiness. But that’s an area for clinical studies and research.
What about those of us who are simply sitting in an armchair or a pew? Let me offer a few simple questions that any of us can ask ourselves as we start another Lent and as we remind ourselves of our mortality by wearing ashes today.
What have been the highlights of this year? What causes me to look back with gratitude? Is there an experience that brought me closer to God? Remember, it doesn’t have to be an experience that felt good. Perhaps there was a death that brought me to a deeper sense of my need for God and profound gratitude for having this person in my life.
Perhaps the sad and scary reality of our world has made me realize that it is only God who can rescue us from this mess. Or, maybe there has been something so positive that it outweighed all the negativity in the world – the birth of a grandchild, a friend being brought back to life after years of seeming death.
How has my attitude toward God and my life changed over the year? Am I more hopeful this Ash Wednesday than last? Or, have I lost hope that peace is possible? If I find myself less hopeful, it’s probably a good idea to ask what will bring back hope.
How were God and I present to or absent from each other this year? Did I spend time in prayer? Was it prayer that brought me to a deeper understanding of myself and a deeper appreciation of the ways of God? Or, was my prayer an experience of rote and routine?
What is my hope for this Lent? I used to speak of expectations in my life. But someone who comes to me for spiritual direction said that her retreat director suggested letting go of expectations and replacing them with hopes. Not a bad idea! Expectations can lead us to a sense of failure. Few things are what we expect them to be. So, what is my hope?
Here we go again with Ash Wednesday and Lent! Let’s enter into the season with openness..