Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when we remember that we have come from ashes and to ashes we will eventually return. I begin this Lenten journey deeply aware of this humbling fact. Tonight as I got ashed, I felt emotions rise and collide. This illness could get the better of me but tonight I knew that I have to pick up my cross and walk the path ahead of me that is marked with the blood of the One who has simultaneously led the way and is yoked to me. I continue to be in good hands, because I am in God’s hands.
Ironically enough, tomorrow is a fast day for me. I will spend the day preparing for a medical test in which I must empty myself physically. I will use the occasion to fast and empty myself spiritually. I was sharing with a friend of mine who is dealing with cancer treatments right now, that I usually offer uncomfortable medical tests up for torture victims. I think she thought I was kidding until I explained that I do not often remember to pray for this group of people and so tomorrow and the next day, I will be thinking of people who have unspeakable things done to them. Most of us do not really suffer much. What I will go through in the next couple of weeks as I undergo more tests will be offered up for those who are suffering. When I go into my scans this week, I will find myself yoked to those who are held in captivity, unable to move and without freedom. I want to offer up these hours of waiting in the unknown for those whose hours slip into days, months and years. Our world needs that right now. The families of those who are kidnapped need our prayers too.
From the ashes of our broken lives, we must rise. We must believe in the Gospel. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” was the simple statement that accompanied the marking of my forehead with a blackened cross. Repent….believe. I walked back to my seat, wondering of what should I repent and what should I believe. When I sat before this beautiful cross in Assisi in August, I did not know then that my pilgrimage would lead me here. I am beginning to understand the silence that greeted me, the tears that overwhelmed me, and the need to return to my city for more instruction in new and different ways. Tonight at mass I also returned to my offering of self from my spring retreat. I had written it out but as I read it aloud ten months ago I substituted a word in a sentence that now makes sense. I have had this premonition for awhile that I would need that word but I did not know it was for me.
My prayer to the Creator was this:
You are the Source and Centre of my life. All is gift. I humbly offer to You all that has been given, asking that I may serve You with joy, humility, compassion and love. I desire only to be Your faithful daughter. I surrender to Your will. To God be all the glory.
I am not sure if I substituted or added the word courage to that list of how to serve. It was heaven-sent then–for an acceptable time, as the second reading proclaimed tonight. Now is the acceptable time. I see that this Lent is when I will embrace courage as I pick up my cross. I am marked with the sign of Christ’s cross and Jesus is yoked to me for each step of the difficult process ahead. This Lent will be unlike others for me. This time I am dragging my cross through the streets. I do not know how much I will have to suffer as I go through this, but I know that the Suffering Servant is with me. When I do not have the energy to take another step, when I fall, when I do not think that I will have enough grace to get through, and when I fail miserably I will call upon the One who can do it with and for me.
I am so unbelievably blessed with a host of earthly angels helping me walk this journey. It reminds me that Jesus also did not walk to Jerusalem, Gethsemane and Calvary alone. God and the angels were with him. I figure I am in good company as I enter Lent.
May your own Lenten path be blessed with all you need.