Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Tuesday, whatever you call it, this Tuesday we are having a party! I am so excited for the community, the laughter, the pancakes with lots of syrup on them, the celebration and joy that this great feast is sure to bring - a great feast before a great fast.
For the very next day is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. And, in all honesty, I am looking forward to it just as much.
On Wednesday, we will put ashes on our heads, and we will remember that we are mortal – you are dust and to dust you shall return – and thank goodness! I find this such a freeing concept – like a great weight is lifted from my shoulders – a reminder of my own finitude, that I am not, and don’t have to be, God.
Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent are opportunities to face the reality that in our finitude, we fall short of God’s dream for us; that things are not quite as they should be in our hearts, in our lives, and in the world, but that we can fall back and be embraced warmly by the mercy and love of God.
I think we sometimes misunderstand Ash Wednesday and Lent, thinking that they are all sin and condemnation all the time, just an opportunity for some self-flagellation. However, at their best, they are not dour, sanctimonious, or condemning. Rather they are liberating, an opportunity for self-examination, quiet and reflection, prayer and practice.
In the words that we will hear on Wednesday, “I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent.” I pray that it will be so, as we embark on our Lenten journeys together and with God.
Thanks be to God!