ASH WEDNESDAY 14TH FEBRUARY, 2024
Looking At Our Own Vulnerability To Bring Healing, Strength And Courage To Others.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent, six weeks (excluding Sundays) dedicated to prayer, fasting, and reflection in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum. The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as a time to re-focus and to re-enter a place of truth. It is here where we find our true identity.
Ash Wednesday invites us to look at our own vulnerability in a way that can bring healing, strength and courage. Aware that we do not set out to come up short, make mistakes or feel “less than” but we often do a reality that is one mysterious thread with the intricate tapestry of human life. Being vulnerable means being exposed, and open, having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. This day also invites us to reach out to those on the periphery of life, care, love, involve them and give them meaning in life.
What comes to my mind this year as we approach Ash Wednesday is not the soft and silky ashes made of the burnt palm branches of last year; rather the ‘Ashes’ made by the destructive forces of nature, the wars, the high cost of living that has left the poor poorer and the rich richer, corruption, high incidents of road accidents due reckless driving, poor roads, name it, and other forces by which we humans exclude others. We see the houses, roads and harbors that are smashed, or we hear the cries of those who were forced to leave their land, jobs, loved ones and even their own lives. Children are unable to study due to lack of fees, death tolls are high due to high medical fees. The question these ‘ashes’ put before us is: “How do you face this reality; how will you answer us?”
Paragraph 2 of our constitutions ardently reminds us that God’s mercy and faithfulness shine forth on the world wounded by sin. And that He has sent his only begotten Son who became one of us, and gave up his life, to set us free, to make us a new creation and to gather together all things in Himself for the glory of His Father. This is what Ash Wednesday invites each RSCJ to receive and live God’s Mercy and Faithfulness in its totality in all that we do, say, and breathe out the same with all we live, serve and interact.
Our Holy Mother St. Madeleine Sophie incessantly calls us to continue fixing our eyes on the crucifix in every difficult moment to allow that gaze to renew our courage. Pope Francis on the other hand invites us to first from bad habits and do penance, feel a little hungry, pray more during Lent and ask ourselves, “How have you behaved towards the other?”
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19.
God bless us all as we audaciously take on this journey together as a family.
Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth; you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism. Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes, and bless the journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth. As we remember our mortality and seek penitence today, we know you to be a God who is rich in forgiveness and abounding in steadfast love, love that culminates in eternal life with you. Guide our steps this Lent, so that we might find greater fulfillment in your promises and better serve others with a heart that’s reflective of you. Amen.
Penina Ann Wambale, rscj.