Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Ashes, Rendering Hearts and Inner Rooms

“Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God” – Joel 2:13
 “Go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” – Mt 6:6

Today we begin our journey of Lent through the desert. The desert is our inner landscape where we recognize areas of unfreedom and resistance that deadens life but to also re-discover how life is teeming anew.  We start our journey marked by ashes with the invitation to “repent and believe in the Gospels.”

The black cross on my forehead reminds me that I can never save myself. Moreover, I don’t have to. Someone else already has. He who “who did not know sin” has taken on all my sins, all of our sins. He enlightens our darkness, walks with us, empowering us to greater life and freedom.

“Render your hearts and return to the Lord” calls me to greater willingness to open-wide what is deeper within so that I can be transformed and be with God more than ever before. For me, that is both exhilarating and frightening. Receiving a change of heart, but through open-heart surgery?

“Go to your inner room” is a gentle yet challenging invitation to encounter more fully a God who hides in the depth of my inmost being and also in community. We are invited to listen to the voice within, but also to pay attention to other people’s needs. On this journey, the death and resurrection of Jesus becomes more than a historical event that took place long ago, but an inner experience that takes place in our hearts.

It is a blessing that we have forty days to undergo this passage from outer ashes to inner self. It will take time to unearth this Good News, to be awakened anew to a deeper awareness that each of us are incredibly cherished and passionate loved as we are, in spite of ourselves, beyond our wildest dreams. The habits “giving up” a vice or “picking up” a virtue such as fasting, almsgiving, and praying are ways* to wake-up to the realization that in Christ, I am, we are, already saved, freed, and loved tenderly.

Lord, help me to open-wide my heart and journey to my inner room to uncover how I am saved and called to grow this Lent.

*see the US Bishops’ Lenten Page or Pope Francis’ Lenten Message for concrete ways to grow through Lent.

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