Ash Wednesday 2022

A couple weeks back in one of our Zoom gatherings at St. Dunstan’s as soon as the conversation turned to Lent someone responded in the chat area “I’m not ready for Lent!” We can, I think, all sympathize. Between Ukraine, COVID 19, inflation and our domestic polarization, it feels like the last thing we need is to switch from green to purple.

So it’s worth remembering that the One who invites us into this Lent is the One who said “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

And closely aligned with these words, the words from our psalm:

3 He forgives all your sins *
and heals all your infirmities;
4 He redeems your life from the grave *
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
8 The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, *
slow to anger and of great kindness.

So what, we might ask, is the problem? It’s like, I think, that story of the fellow hiking in the mountains. His foot slips, he goes over the edge, and just manages to grab hold of a root—and looking down is not a good idea. He calls for help and is answered by a celestial voice: “Don’t be afraid. I’ll help you. Let go of the root.” The guy thinks a long moment and then responds “Is anyone else up there?”

That’s the work of Lent. What’s the root or the roots that I’m hanging onto that keep me from receiving more fully God’s mercy and loving-kindness? It might have something to do with the last verses in the Gospel, where I’m storing up treasure, whether—as the text explores past what we read—my use of my resources is mirroring God’s generosity. Whether my eye is stingy or generous is a pretty good clue re what I trust for my security. What are my preferred roots? The work of Lent.

But back to Jesus. The difference between our situation and that of the dangling hiker is that Jesus comes alongside us: “You don’t have to do this alone. We can do it together.” For what is the story that we hear throughout the Church year if not the story of Jesus letting go of all the roots on offer, and inviting us to come along?

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