Lent means "springtime," the opportunity for new life and new possibilities. Lent is the season of renewed hope because it affords us the opportunity to examine more carefully our way of life, our grappling at recognition and praise. Today's Ash Wednesday Gospel text stands as an examination for each of us. If we truly want to turn our lives around, truly want to repent and seek the Lord, then we must be careful not to make a "show" of it, or else we are again building up our own kingdom.
Lent is a time to "turn around," repent, be changed by the proclamation of the gospel as it roots itself in our hearts. The change of Christian discipleship is a change of attitude, of heart. The actions are only expressive of a deeper commitment of following the Lord, of choosing the Lord's values. Our recognition of our sin leads us to want to change as the first reading from the prophet Joel tells us, "rend your hearts, not your garments." It was common for repentant persons to rip their clothes and wail in repentance. But so often this became more of a show than a sign of conversion. The real change must happen in our hearts, where in the silence we meet our God.
Today, Ash Wednesday, we are marked with ashes; we are recognized by the community as one who had chosen an authentic way of life(sin) but who has chosen to embrace the cross, to choose life. The marking of ashes is a reminder, a call to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel. It is the marking of those who gather around reconciliation. Can we wear this badge of recognition?
Lent is "springtime" for cleansing of the soul.
-visit United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for more Lenten resources.