The ashes in the sign of the cross are a twofold reminder. The ashes say yes, I am a sinner. The cross means I have a Savior, Jesus, who says, “You are Mine.” We are not what we should be, yet we still belong to Jesus.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” my mother would inevitably ask.
“How about peaches?”
“In Philadelphia, in winter? I don’t think so.”
Here are some better ideas.
Of course the big three in Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Today’s readings provide a blueprint. “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning”. We don’t need to pick herculean challenges for Lent, just some things that bring us closer to Jesus.
“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret”. For me, prayer is an opportunity to get closer to Jesus. How about spending 15 minutes a day in prayer, or reading the Gospel or reflecting?
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites”. Fasting, or giving something up, helps to purify us, to conform our hearts to Jesus. What could you remove from your life, what keeps you from being present to those you love? Netflix? Sports? Social media?
“When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing”. While prayer and fasting are about you, alms giving is about others. Who could I give my time or talent or treasure to? How can I use my time to bless someone else? Perhaps you could write a short note of gratitude each day to a different person in your life to whom you are thankful. You could visit a classmate or an elder each day who could use a lift.
Behold! Now is a very acceptable time…
to become what we are not yet.