Lent – From the Ashes

“Remember that you are dust and you shall return to dust”. The church reverberates with this startling statement on Ash Wednesday, pronounced by the Creator and Judge Himself, which commences the season of Lent. These words reiterate the truth of death and call each of us back to our origins. The Son of Man was too not spared from these words, which concealed God’s plan and sorrow in them. God’s image and likeness must return to dust, but thanks be to God for His gift of Jesus Christ: the greatest truth of death now culminates in the greatest truth of resurrection. This is the greatest story ever told. Lent is a road to resurrection, a journey from ashes to glory. This is our faith. Lent is a time to remember that our earthly life is a spiritual journey from the creation of dust to the return of dust. Lent is a time to remember that our life is marked with grace, which is freely available. Lent is a time to remember that we have eternal life after death.

Lent – a spiritual journey

The church presents Lent as a path or a journey. Remember, God called Abraham (Gen 12:1) “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you”. Abraham set forth to the Promised Land, only with a divine promise. The journey was long and arduous, with many years of wait for a child, with testing moments of sacrificing his only beloved son, depending upon the Lord for his providence and sustenance and a journey that ended miles away from the Promised Land. Is God not true to His promises? Moses along with Israel set forth on that journey, wandering for forty years in the wilderness. Did they make it to the Promised Land? The Son of God took the path of Lent together with His disciples during His life on earth, who for the sake of joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame and has rightly taken His seat at the right hand of God (Heb 12:2). He overcomes death and causes life and immortality to shine forth by means of His Gospel. We too are called, like Abraham and Moses, to trod this path of Lent and run the race that is set before us in perseverance and faith, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecto, at the end of which is resurrection. Therefore, borne by the power of God, we too ought to take trials and tribulations, suffering and shame, disappointments and diseases bearing them for the sake of the Gospel. Lent is a time to lift our drooping hands, strengthen our weak knees and make straight paths for our feet, accompany Jesus to Jerusalem, like Thomas, willing to die with Him (Jn 11:16).

Lent – a time of grace

“Lord may your grace be upon us, because we hope in You”. Lent is a time to live in deep intimacy with God filled with His grace. Grace is freely available to us in faith because faith is precisely adherence of heart and mind to the Word of God. Lent is a time when God’s Riches are poured out at Christ’s Expense, which we can experience in the following ways during this season of Lent through an attitude of

  • Deep prayer, which entails weaving a dialogue with the Lord.
  • Sincere humility (derived from the Latin word “humus”, which means, “from the soil” or “of the soil”) It reminds us that we can be humble only if we remember our source that we are created from dust and will return to dust.  
  • Worship & Adoration : Lent beckons us to a wholistic life made complete in the Holy Eucharist in faith. We are invited to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in faith and experience complete freedom, healing and Shalom. We are healed
    • (i) Mentally, when we surrender all our thoughts, worries and anxieties,
    • (ii) Spiritually, when we forgive one another,
    • (iii) Emotionally, when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and
    • (iv) Physically, when we surrender our sickness and diseases to the Lord in faith

Lent – a time of restoration

Lent is a time when we should allow the Lord to open our consciences through the Word of God and by the eloquence of the cross. Lent is an exceptional time for saving the “inward man” in each of us (Eph 3:16) by shedding ourselves, both interiorly and exteriorly, through prayer, penitence and fasting. During this year of faith, we are called to rediscover the power of the Word of God, recognize God and rediscover ourselves in God. We are created “in justice and holiness” (Eph 4:24) through the operation of the sufferings and the resurrection of Christ. We need to co-operate with Christ by

  • detaching ourselves from the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19), which oppose the Holy Spirit
  • Make room for the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22)
  • Follow Christ in prayer and fasting
  • Take up our cross and follow Jesus

Lent is a time of deep truth that converts and restores hope, puts everything in its place, reconciles and lets optimism arise. The following passage from the Jewish liturgy book called ‘Gates of Repentance’, read on Yom Kippur day, aptly summarizes the season of lent

”Now is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red to orange. The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more towards the south. The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals, turning comes instinctively but for us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again and this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do but unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday’s ways. Lord, help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back towards you. Revive our lives as at the beginning and turn us towards each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.”

Conclusion

Lent is a time of deep truth that converts and restores hope, puts everything in its place, reconciles and lets optimism arise

Come on then, let us all make this journey from ashes to glory, at the end of which is the joy of meeting the Risen Christ

Kindly keep me in your prayers.

In Christ,

Steven Pais