Thursday, February 11, 2016
It’s time for us to go there.
On Ash Wednesday it hit me: this is a strange thing we do.
We listen as the scripture call us to do the things that don’t come easy: humility, charity, prayer, fasting.
We confess a lengthy and detailed list of our sins.
We willingly line up to have our faces smeared with ash.
We allow someone to tell us the hard truth that we will die.
We do it publicly.
We do it together.
It’s nothing that the people want.
It’s everything that the world does its best to avoid.
It’s the opposite of what our culture celebrates and values.
Nevertheless, this is the direction we head every year in Lent. And Christians aren’t the only ones.
Every major religion has a season set aside for communal acts of mourning and repentance, when all are called to engage in self-discipline and practice compassion. It seems that humanity realized a long time ago that this was something the individual could not do alone. We need a community to face up to the things that scare us the most: our failures, our temptations, our mortality.
And because we do it together, we are engaging in an act of resistance to the most tempting and seductive of lies:
I can do it myself.
I can fix myself.
I can save myself.
I am alone.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus appears to be on his own out there in the wilderness.
But he is not.
All the while the Holy Spirit is leading him, filling him despite his empty stomach.
Jesus quotes scripture, not to best the devil, but to remind himself that he is not alone.
The Word is his constant companion.
Trust bridges the isolation, bringing the Father close.
And we are there, too. Those hearing this story over the generations are with him, also.
So that for all the times that will come—when it seems as if one is all alone—we can remember the truth. We are not alone. We were never meant to be.
As we set off into the wilderness of Lent, ask yourself:
How will the community go with you?
How might God be present—in spirit, in word, in the flesh?