Lent begins early this year. It seems we have just put away the tree, the ornaments, and the wrapping paper and already it’s time to receive ashes on our foreheads! We come once again to this sacred, earthy season of Lent, where we remember that it is from dust and earth from which we emerge and one day we shall return to it. Those ashes mark us as believers in a God who loves us beyond imagination, a God whose only Son gave his life that we might live. Yes, we have moved from the Christmas season of “God with us” to the Lenten and Easter season of “God for us.”
Yes, Lent is the time to acknowledge our sinfulness, but perhaps not to dwell on it. Rather, to be reminded of God’s Provident goodness to us and the great gift to humankind that Jesus is. His life, his love, his actions all point to God’s abundant love for us. This season of Lent might invite us to plunge ourselves into the daily, ordinary ways that Jesus is present and really see them with new eyes of gratitude.
The season of Lent offers us a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace. Each year we are given six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives, our wants, our desires. Lent becomes that time to “return to God with your whole heart” as we hear in the prayers for Ash Wednesday. It is a journey of daily steps that bring us closer to the welcoming arms of a loving and Provident God. Perhaps our Provident God is asking us to slow down and take stock of ourselves and our spiritual life. It is the “acceptable time” to consider this God of Providence both in our own life individually and in our society and its needs.
This Lent might be a reminder of the sobering events in our world this past year. We have seen and known the pain and loss from the pandemic. We have seen violence in our Capitol building, the plight of refugees crossing borders, simply looking for safety. In many parts of our world, we have seen the devastation of natural disasters and it has seared our hearts. There is a great vulnerability among humankind and yet God’s graciousness is also present. We see the unselfishness of so many good people who are stepping forward to help others who suffer terror, loss of homes to mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, all injustices and confusion. These times encourage us to put our differences aside, to let go of offensive attitudes, to come together, to reach out in the hopes of creating a more just and merciful world.
Lent is not about ashes for one day, but about living in love for all days…about the way we interact with others, embrace diversity, and see the possibility of goodness in all creation and creatures surrounding us. I invite you to trust the tender providence of God as you begin your Lenten journey. May you see with new eyes the ever unfolding mystery we call Providence!
Barbara McMullen, CDP