There is a story about a person who was trying to learn Christian meditation. He complained to his teacher that when he tried to still his mind for five minutes, he got distracted no less than twenty times.
His teacher responded, “Wonderful! That means you had more than twenty opportunities to return to the Lord.”
We don’t use the word “repent” all that often in the Episcopal Church these days, but it represents a critically important concept in the Christian life. Its original meaning holds more than the mere guilt of needing correction. It’s at least as much about the joy found in returning to the Lord, which is something we can do in big ways and small ways, over and over, every day of our lives. Understood this way, the word “repent” becomes a beautiful word.
This is how I see the season of Lent, which begins today. It’s not about feeling guilty. Rather, we have the opportunity to intentionally take on practices that help us return. I hope that you will choose a thing or two that you will either take on or give up. It doesn’t need to be heroic. Anything will do. (I once had a youth group member give up high-fructose corn syrup, which must not have been easy!) The point is not what you do, but your faithfulness in doing it. This Lenten discipline will be an opportunity to make a choice daily that will allow you to be mindful of God, and to take a small but meaningful step in God’s direction.
You may find it difficult. But that, too, is a chance to reflect on the sacrifice and suffering of others, and not least of all, the self-giving way in which Jesus lived his life.
So on this day, when ashes remind us that our physical lives will not last forever, we have the opportunity to begin a path choosing that which will endure—nothing less than the love of God. We get to turn—to return—to the Lord.
The Reverend Rob Fisher, Rector
Links to the appointed readings for today: