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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Anticipating Ash Wednesday

As I sit silently in our small chapel here at Canisius College in New South Wales, Australia on the eve of Ash Wednesday, I reflect upon the ways I will be more available to the Lord during Lent. Regardless of what I intend to do, Christ is already busy about opening my heart more deeply to his promptings. I am asked simply to assent to his desire to grow closer to me. I have the great benefit of using these days as a time of disposition before I make the 30-day retreat in a few weeks.

While the readings for Ash Wednesday (Joel 2 and Matthew 6) suggest a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, I find myself resonating with other points of the passages. Joel writes ‘return to me with your whole heart,’ yet I find this is incredibly difficult to do. It is not that I do not want it, but I am becoming more aware of the attachments that stop me from being the person that God and I would like me to be. I am flooded with seemingly random memories, some happy and others painful, that I have to examine in greater detail and perhaps with much repetition and I have to ask myself whether I am courageous enough to let Christ help me to re-view these memories again – this time with his help. I am confident that he has valuable insights for me, but I fear the pain that I might experience again, and yet I know that fear is not faith. I also know that this may lead to incredible healing or at least that I may gain a more compassionate understanding of myself. My growing realization of just how much I need Christ to die for me and to personally save me becomes larger in my consciousness. I believe Christ will help me grow into a loving, kinder, more generous person. Just as the Psalmist asks God for a steadfast spirit to renew him, I also ask for that very same grace.

I become encouraged by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians when he tells us to “be reconciled to God.” He continues, “Do not receive the grace of God in vain,” for “this is an acceptable time” and God has heard us; this is the day of salvation and God has helped us. Yes, I want what God is doing for me, but I fear I do not have the discipline to stay with God and do my part. God has been pouring out graces upon me and I want to be open enough to receive them. My prayer is that I can just simply “be” in the company of Jesus. Therefore, my Lent will have less to do with fasting from meat, food, or desserts; it will have much more to do with fasting from my many attachments that I am learning about more fully. It means that I will do my best to stay open to his call and to respond as best I can, no matter how insufficient. It means that I will give an honest and sincere attempt to enter into the fullness of my memories so Christ can help me unpack my experiences and allow me to examine my life as he sees it. What an adventure! So off I go into my desert experience, but I am wise enough to know now that Christ will be with me on each step of the journey and also during those times when I cannot put another foot forward.

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