Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ash Wednesday's Message of Life's Transience

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  I know that it's still Fat Tuesday, and the merry-making continues, but it's probably okay to begin thinking about tomorrow.  I am, after all, doing so in my own sermon prep for tomorrow evening.

I have spoken earlier of Sr. Joan Chittister's wonderful book on the liturgical year.  She has a very helpful chapter in the book on the Ash Wednesday observance.  In one of her paragraphs she speaks of Ash Wednesday's reminder that life is transient and that the time for change has become urgent.

She writes:

Ash Wednesday, an echo of the Hebrew Testament's ancient call to sackcloth and ashes, is a continuing cry across the centuries that life is transient, that change is urgent.  We don't have enough time to wast time on nothingness.  We need to repent our dillydallying on the road to God.  We need to regret the time we've spent playing with dangerous distractions and empty diversions along the way. We need to repent of our senseless excesses and our excursions into sin, our breaches of justice, our failures of honesty, our estrangement from God, our savorings of excess, our absorbing self-gratifications, one infantile addiction, one creature caving another.  "Remember man that you are dust and dust you shall return," the old Sacramentary formula warned us from God's words to Adam and Eve, as the ashes trickled down our foreheads.  We hear now, as Jesus proclaimed in Galilee, "Turn away from sin and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15).  [The Liturgical Year, Thomas Nelson, 2009, p. 118]

Sr. Joan has provided us with a litany of sins that need attention -- I must confess that I too fall victim to most of these -- including the very basic one of wasting time on nothingness.  May we be set free to embrace that which is eternal. 

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