22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday Reflection

As we begin the Season of Lent this Ash Wednesday, let us consider that the cross of ash on our forehead, the disciplines of fasting and abstinence, and the pious act of almsgiving, are all external manifestations of that which is within: the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us who calls us to conversion. 

Thus, at the imposition of ash on our foreheads we are reminded to: "turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1,15).

Conversion comes from the Greek metanoiete which, in the context especially of the above quoted Gospel text, means "to go beyond the mind that you have" or simply "to have a change of heart". 

Conversion involves a two-fold act: a turning away from something and a turning towards another. The first act refers to what we have to do; the second, to why we do it. It has to be clear to us why we are turning away from sins,  particularly the ones that we find ourselves repeatedly committing (or omitting).  

We turn away from sin and turn towards God, so we may live fully the life Christ has won for us. The ash that we use today points to the fleeting nature of earthly things in contrast to the infinitely joyful and glorious life that Christ offers us. 

Turning away from sin means dying to ourselves by following the way of the cross. Thus, the ash is imposed in the figure of the cross. And by dying to our selfishness, to the shallowness and apathy that perennially tempts us, we find ourselves not really dying but living life fully instead.This is where the Spirit leads us.

Rev. William Arthur Ward, an American pastor, speaks further about this call of the Spirit when he listed down some of the things we should fast from and feast on.

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that strengthens.