Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time of serious rethinking purpose, direction and relationship with God. It is probably easier to say what Lent is not than what it is. Our history has often reduced Lent to something between boot-camp or angst-camp. And guilt has often played a big part, at least in my experience, which probably says more about me than Lent! In any case, the Church’s Lenten liturgical season is really only about one thing and that is me – human being: flawed, imperfect, insecure, doubtful, anxious and seeking happiness just about everywhere except where it is to be found. And where is happiness to be found? Christians don’t have a place, but a name – Jesus. Sounds just about too good to be true, but Christianity has a long history of making outrageous claims. Lent invites me, never coerces me, to sit still and listen; to be still and not speak; to become still and take the deep breath to see the reality of my life; to become stiller and stiller and accept the truth about myself. And if I allow this to happen … I may experience the words of Jesus – “the truth will set you free”. “Free” for what? Freedom to be happy; freedom to be at peace with myself because I am created in the divine image and likeness; freedom to not worry about all those things that stop me from being authentically human … freedom to be the person I was created to be … free to be a beloved daughter and son of the Creating Father … free to let Jesus work wonders in my life.
How do I do this? The tradition teaches us three ways –
prayer: non-electronic, non-iphone, ipad, internet-based technology, but heart to heart with the God who loves me;
fasting: letting go of stuff and things and allowing myself to embrace people and be embraced by them and God;
almsgiving: reminding myself that there are other people on the planet who have needs just like me, and disciplining myself to do something about it.