This is a very short homily / reflection that I wrote for Ash Wednesday. It is not my turn to preach and will not be delivering it. It is based on the readings for Ash Wednesday that can be found here.
Most of you probably heard about the embellished claims that NBC announcer Brian Williams was caught in that has cost him at least a 6 month suspension without pay, and maybe his career. I have seem hundreds of jokes on-line about it, depicting him being present at every event from the parting of the Red Sea to the landing on the moon. At first, I though these little cartoons were FUNNY. But seeing so many of these made me think: How easy it is to sit in judgment of others. We read and hear so much about people’s wrongdoings in the media. We gossip about people at work or in in our families. It stirs us up to ridicule them if not to outright condemn them. It seems like such a natural reaction for us to cast stones at others. I think in a manner, it’s often our way of avoiding facing up to the reality of our own wrongdoing.
And so in this period of Lent, as people if faith, we’re encouraged to stop pointing the finger of accusation at others, and instead to take a good look at our own lives.
The word “Lent” comes from an old English word which means “lengthen” or “springtime” so it reminds us of spring cleaning and the new life in nature during spring. When it comes to sin, we’re all in the same boat – “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, as Paul puts it. Is that “white lie” you told to keep yourself out of trouble at its roots any different than the stories that Brian Williams told? The reality is that sin is sin, whatever form it takes – we all need to come before the Cross of Christ, for forgiveness and reconciliation.
In the Old Testament when people left sin behind and turned over a new leaf they used ashes to symbolize their repentance. Job said, “I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6) Daniel “turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”
The words of the Lord through the prophet Joel in our first reading are words that have special significance for us today as we begin this season of Lent and are words that we can easily see the Lord speaking to us personally. “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.”
Sometimes people ask, “What are you doing for Lent?” “What are you giving up? There is one thing to give up during Lent – sin. And any of those things that lead you there.