Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH
As the days begin to lengthen, unfolding gradually the promises of new life, the Church enters into its movement toward the great feast of Life – the Resurrection – with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. For the next forty days, we will be invited to enter into a virtual desert experience, an experience where one can hear more deeply, within one’s own heart, the voice of God. How is this to be accomplished? The readings and prayers at the Mass on Ash Wednesday set the tone. The first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel begins,
Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting and weeping…
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord your God.
Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, follows this up with the exhortation, “…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
As you present yourself to be signed with ashes and hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” accept this invitation as a call by our God to a renewal of life. Allow yourself to look at any excesses that may have crept into your life, which are blurring Gospel values. Settle on the ways in which you are able to find your fasting and desert experiences.
Be creative! Your most contemplative experiences might just occur on a crowded subway or while performing some unpleasant task. Your fasting might come from five minutes of listening to that boring individual whom you usually tune out. And, what of a smile to that harried employee at the check-out counter? Or, that effort to keep from judging others or from complaining.
As we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus during Lent, let us remember that Jesus lives and that in our remembering, returning, reconciling and repenting we are responding to the call of our living God who calls us to life in the risen Christ.