This Ash Wednesday, here are three brief, thought-provoking articles that will hopefully help you enter more intentionally into this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
During Lent a few years ago, I decided to reflect intentionally on the questions of Jesus. By that, I mean the questions that Jesus asks as recorded in the gospels. It turns out he asks a lot of questions, and not a single one of them is innocuous. What I discovered is that if we are willing to hear him, his questions will jolt us, surprise us, trouble us, and potentially even transform us. The only thing that is guaranteed to not happen if you let Jesus ask you questions is that you will remain comfortable. And so my Lenten practice turned out to be quite uncomfortable—beautifully and wonderfully uncomfortable.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” In my youth, this question was fraught with the anxiety of choosing which I would rather give up for forty days: ice cream or chocolate. More recently though, I have tried to embrace the ascetic element of this liturgical season as an opportunity to examine how God is inviting me to let go and who God is inviting me to become.
“‘O truly blessed Night,’ sings the Exultet of the Easter Vigil, ‘which alone deserved to know the time and the hour when Christ rose from the realm of the dead!’ But no one was an eyewitness to Christ’s Resurrection and no evangelist describes it. No one can say how it came about physically.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §647)
“‘By the grace of God’ Jesus tasted death ‘for everyone.’ In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only ‘die for our sins’ but should also ‘taste death,’ experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God’s great sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man’s salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §624)