“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It’s bizarre that we walk around with ashes on our foreheads on this day. It’s bizarre because it seems to go against what Jesus says in the gospel reading from Matthew [see 6:1-21]. It’s bizarre because we look funny to those who have no idea what’s going on. “Excuse me, sir, but you’ve got something on your forehead.” But it’s most bizarre to me because it takes place on the outer part of our bodies: Ashes on our foreheads.
Lent, when you think about it, is really a time to work on the inner parts of life. The invitation offered to us is that we observe this holy season by “self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial.” Those are all meant to be things that affect what’s happening inside our hearts and lives. Repentance is from the Greek word metanoia meaning “to go a different way” or “to turn around” or “to change one’s heart” or, maybe even more simply, “to reconsider.”
A question to consider as we begin this holy season: What do I need to thrive? I don’t mean thrive in the sense of making lots of money or acquiring new things, but thriving in the sense of growing in life. I’m convinced that God wants each one of us to thrive, to have healthy relationships with others, to discern meaningful vocations, to discover how we can serve others, to find ways to draw closer to God. What do you need to thrive in your life? Do you need to give something up? Take something on? Fast from social media so that you can spend more time with a loved one? Devote time to prayer? Do one of those things during Lent.
By intentionally doing the interior work of Lent, I think our lives blossom and thrive. We are changed; we are turned around; we are set on a new path. By accepting the invitation and going on a lenten journey, we are able to, with Jesus, experience resurrection: a new life.
Blessings on your journey. May you thrive.
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 103, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21