Welcome to Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent!
This season is a great chance to ‘hit refresh’ on our relationship with God; a day where the Church says “Hey we’re not perfect. In fact sometimes, we’re not even good. But here’s a chance to stop and get back on track; to make things right again.
I remember when I was growing up my younger brother and I were really close. We were always together; playing footy out on the street, running around on the farms near our house, or just watching TV together. We were inseparable.
But as I got older and made new friends I didn’t want my little brother tagging along. One night I got so mad at him for always hanging around that in front of all my friends I yelled “Go home
and leave me alone!”
He stormed off, and I knew I’d hurt him, but at the time I was more concerned with what my friends thought. When I got home I was in trouble with my parents for not letting him join in and made to apologise. But it wasn’t until I walked into his room and found him crying did I realise how much I had hurt him.
Now, it didn’t matter how much trouble I was in with my parents – it was that I had hurt my brother so much that made me feel sorry. I had been a bad sister and I needed to make it right.
Lent is something like that, an opportunity to ‘walk into the room’ and make things right with God.
Where did it come from?
Ash Wednesday has a pretty interesting history. Way back in the early days of the Church, this was the day that those who were becoming Christians and those whohad committed a cracker of
sin, would gather for the bishop to sprinkle ashes on their head. The Old Testament even refers to people in mourning or seeking repentance putting sackcloth and ashes on their heads (I’m glad they dropped the sack cloth and just kept the ashes).
But how it grew from something that only a few did to millions every year is fascinating. People found the sign of penance… attractive
I don’t think it was the look of going around with a dirty forehead that people thought was the highest fashion. I think it was the opportunity to get back on track with Jesus which drew people in.
And let’s be real, even when we live with the best of intentions, we still get off-route. We get lost and disoriented.
The Road Ahead
You may hear lots of people bragging about ‘what they’re giving up for Lent’ – chocolate, ice-cream, facebook, whatever. But as you think about what to give up this Lent, I want to challenge you – what’s your motivation?
Are you giving up chocolates to lose weight? Cutting out coffee to save money? Or is your small sacrifice, your ‘penance’, really about getting back on track and making things right with God?
Photo cred: Jesus Zamorano