Ash Wednesday Reflection
Yesterday I woke up at 4 am. It wasn’t the sound of an alarm clock that woke me up, or the movement of the stars shining through my window. I believe it was the Holy Spirit calling me to pray. So I prayed, and prayed and prayed.
The Holy Spirit has awakened me before, nudging me to pray. Most times I have had a sense of what I needed to pray about. But not this time. Instead it was the overwhelming feeling that I just needed to pray.
I prayed for my family, for you the people I serve and am called to lead. I prayed for our broken world and for a world redeemed by God’s mercy. And then I prayed with a grateful heart for the simple things that bring me joy – laughter among friends, a good movie about real people overcoming adversities and contributing to the well-being of humanity, longer sunlit days after weeks of showers of blessing! The more I prayed the more I felt that I not only needed to pray, but wanted to pray. I felt my heart open to God, more expansive than I knew possible, ready to be filled by God!
On this Ash Wednesday I do remember with you that this is the day when we Christians begin a journey of 40 days in which we seek to be reconciled to God and neighbor; a time of prayer and fasting, and giving to others so that our lives are refocused, no longer looking inwardly to satisfy our own desires, but outwardly in love towards God and others.
During the Lenten season that is inaugurated by Ash Wednesday we sacrifice, giving up things that bring us pleasure in order to free space, time, and resources to be in deeper loving relationship with God and neighbor. And let’s not forget about our sin. Ash Wednesday is the annual announcement that we have sinned and need to repent.
I’ve always thought of Ash Wednesday in part as the moment in the Christian year when we are called to want less and take less for the sake of our soul. But what if Ash Wednesday calls us to want more and take more. Consider the words of the Psalmist.
Summarizing Psalm 51:1-13 the Psalmist asks for more, ready to take more. Give me oh God, mercy, compassion, judgement, purification, a good washing, joy and celebration, a clean heart, a new and faithful spirit deep within me, the joy of my salvation, oh Lord! Clearly the Psalmist knows what happens when we ask God for more of the gifts that God offers us: we become a repentant people able to teach other wrongdoers, just like us, God’s ways. And then, together we find ourselves sinners returning to God.
Yesterday the Holy Spirit inspired me to desire more prayer, and indeed more of God. Today I invite us all to desire more of God on this Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent. I fervently believe that asking for more of what God offers us will fill us to the point of leaving no room for sin. Then others will see us, see our joy, the very joy of our salvation and return with us to God.
I’m praying for you. Won’t you pray for me. Blessings to you on this Ash Wednesday and throughout the Lenten season.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño