Lent, Easter, and Pentecost present themselves year after year with increasing urgency, inviting everyone to engage more deeply with the Christlike God, setting aside all human definitions of God, allowing God who meets us in Jesus’ words and deeds to come clearly into focus.
So, on Ash Wednesday we set out on a ninety-day journey with all seekers after truth, through forty days of preparation we call Lent, to fifty days of Easter celebration culminating in the Day of Pentecost.
Whether we have travelled this way a hundred times, or only once, or never before, we are pilgrims on a journey, opening hearts and hands to receive God’s gifts, opening hearts and hands to share these gifts with anyone and everyone we meet on the road.
We think we know the way and destination, for in Jesus’ company ashes always lead to light and fire, as dying leads to fullness of life. And yet, we do not know the way, and cannot know, because the way of the cross is the same but ever new. This is a new day, and the world is not the same. This is a new day, and we are not the same. This is a new day, and the needs of our companions and neighbours are not the same. Thanks to Covid-19 we are more alert than before to these truths, just as we are slightly better at recognising the fresh start of Easter dawn, the first day of God’s new creation, bursting with new life, sure yet endlessly surprising, mystery beyond all human understanding.
We enter into Lent because we know we cannot remain the same. However much we resist change, we are more fearful of being left behind. We want to go on living, to go on growing, however painful growth can be. As Lent begins, we start out again, eyes fixed on Easter dawn’s first light, learning to be human together, a bit more adventurous, more sensitive, responsible, courageous..
Perhaps, this time around, navel-gazing will give way to looking up.
Perhaps, we can look neighbours in the eye, sharing one another’s joys, bearing one another’s burdens.
Perhaps our Lenten discipline, God’s eastering in our hearts, will make us kind - attentive, imaginative, gentle with ourselves and with each other.
Receiving grace and acting graciously might just be possible at last.
Selflessness, after all, comes from following in the footprints of the Lord who goes before us, emptying himself of everything but love, calling us to follow in his way.
Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return. Repent, and believe the gospel.