Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday: Toward New Life & Joy

“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Cor 6:2

The recent baptism of my nephew Joaquin was a joyous event.  He was smiling the entire time.  He usually does, but even more so on that day.  More with his eyes.  His godfather Vu and godmother Anna were beaming as well, especially as Joaquin was being lifted up and presented to God like Jesus in the temple. (Or was it like Simba in the Lion King?)

During the baptism, all of us present reveled in this realization during the rite of anointing with the chrism of salvation:  “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of this body, sharing everlasting life.”  Our joy, to a large extent, comes from realizing that Joaquin is a child a God.  Moreover, he is God’s Beloved, like the revelation of Jesus during his baptism at the River Jordan. He shares Christ’s everlasting life.

Joaquin’s baptism points me toward this journey of Lent – a passage to new life and joy.  The journey of Lent takes us towards this central and radical truth of our spiritual identity. Through the Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection – we are irrevocably transformed to new life and joy as God’s Beloved.  The Lenten call to repent (change of heart) is an invitation to embrace hope, life, and new life by embracing ourselves (and others) as Beloved of God.  

Ashes are not just a sign of our mortality and penitence.  It is also a sign of our hope as we begin a journey from ashes to an Easter of new life and joy.  The Lenten disciplines are helps on this journey: (1) Prayer can help us to let God be renewed as the center of our lives. (2) Fasting can help us trust God in reordering of our bodies, minds, and hearts to healthier, more integrated ways (3) Almsgiving can help us realize that we belong to one another, to the Body of Christ, in solidarity an service.

What practice of “giving up” a vice or “picking up” a virtue can you and I adopt to better help us journey toward new life and joy in God?

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