Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me. (Ps. 51.10)
We begin Lent with Ash Wednesday. It is a time for putting aside everything that we are and have, and turning to the God who loves us. Sure we need to Confess our sins, to repent of those thoughts and actions that stem from our self-centredness. We do that right at the beginning—-to clean out our life, to set things straight, to turn to priorities. But Ash Wednesday is more.
When the Ashes are placed on our forehead in the Sign of the Cross, we are choosing to put aside all of our ego, our wants, our possessions, our demands, which are nothing but sackcloth and ashes, and open ourselves up to God’s all embracing Love. For 40 days, at least, we want to let God love and sustain us. To let God take possession of us and all that is ours, so that we learn to love Him back.
That’s the essence of what we begin today. To learn how to let God Love us.
Sure, we want to grow in Christ, to grow more like the Saints that God wants us to be. To become caring and loving Christians so that Jesus can act and speak through us, to do our part to build the Kingdom of God right here, right now. But first, we need to empty ourselves, to reject the selfish ego that demands our own rights, to repent of our sins, and open up to the Love and Forgiveness that God is offering. We need to sit in the Presence of the Lord with nothing but an empty heart, desiring only to absorb God’s Love. Because in the end, that’s all there really is.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of all that. The reward is becoming aware of God’s Love flowing through us; the pain is giving up our own selfish wants. As Lent continues, that pain becomes less, and God’s Love becomes more. The crucifixion of our self-centered ego is replaced by the Resurrection and New Life in the Spirit. Christ becomes all in all, and our Life in Christ fills us with Joy.
Father Ron Barnes is an Associate of Holy Cross Priory. He is an Anglican Priest (retired) in the Diocese of British Columbia, In retirement, Ron, with a doctorate in Computer Technology, consults and teaches in both Canada and the USA.