Ash Wednesday

“Oh my gosh!”, I cried to my friend at 10:30 this morning.

“We have to fast today, right?!?”

This has never happened to me- forgetting elements of a spiritual day. Maybe it was all those years in Catholic school, or working for religious organizations that brought these actions to the forefront my mind.

Manda laughed and replied:

“Well, have to and choose to are two different things”.

(Disclaimer: There is so much wisdom in that line – I need time and a whole other post to truly explore it!)

We then chatted about how our Catholic fasting is so different from our other friends, say those who fast for Ramadan. She even termed it “fasting-light”! I then realized that fasting wasn’t mentioned this past weekend nor was it in our bulletin, again unusual. But regardless, today  it was something I chose to do.

Why?

Well, because when I had ‘remembered’ it this morning, I was deep into three different reports about hunger and the global food crisis. In my daily life, my experiences of hunger are few, brief, and easily remedied. And while I know this is a different experience for nearly one billion of my global community, today brought a moment to recall this truth. I could know this in a less philosophical or scholarly way.

In years past, Lent has brought about significant renewals and changes. Two seasons ago, I gave up meat for these 40 days. You all were on the journey with me, and I learned many valuable lessons. This time in faith allows for reflection and reconnection: to our faith, ourselves, our God, and our community.

Even with these great marks on my life, I find this liturgical time ineffable. Just yesterday a friend asked me about the significance of Lent. I wish I had Mary’s words to explain it. Instead, I muddled through how as a child, I was encouraged to “give something up” to connect your life to the story of Easter: sacrifice, dying to self, resurrection. I think this was used to more easily explain to children the concept of Lent, but am happy that as we have matured, our learning has too. My adult Lents’ have been a combination of reflecting on the duality of life and death, recognizing suffering in this world (be it our own or other’s), and ultimately  bringing these questions to faith. Fasting, taking on a new activity or giving one up, practices of gratitude can all be elements of Lent.

Fast forward to my time at mass today. Sitting in church, with my mind in so many places “should I really be here?” “why does this one church always feel so austere?” “why is this the Gospel for today” , “do I come for the songs I only get to hear this one day a year” and then I hear:

It doesn’t need to make sense.

So true. As I trot away, ashes falling in my eyes and all over my clothes a woman stops me on the street saying “Man they did a good cross on ya” while a man starts to laugh. I walk on humming imperfectly one of my favorite hymns which reminds me to enjoy the journey- all of it. Not just the ‘perfect’ parts.

We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

This post. It’s anything but perfect-. But today’s story is that from mistakes (honestly forgetting about fasting), to spiritual growth (have to vs. choose to) connto ecting the global world to our personal world, this is the journey. This is the honesty of life… and the spirituality of Lent.

***

Upon writing this post, I received a plea from the World Food Programme. Consider giving so that those in Syria may be able to eat. Please take a moment now to donate $36 and provide nutritious food to a family for the next two weeks.

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