Blessed Ash Wednesday to you, and if you're not a person who observes today as Ash Wednesday, happy Wednesday to you.
For over a week already, I have heard the question, "what are you giving up for Lent?" And while I would make a joke about giving up something silly, the question is one that I sat with in prayer for quite some time. What does one give up for Lent? Growing up, chocolate was the go-to "sacrifice," but I never really did like chocolate so that was always an easy one, during my seminary training, fasting became a practice that I was already doing, so that was somewhat silly to do as a Lenten observation, and giving up certain things was somewhat difficult, especially since there really wasn't much to give up, schoolwork maybe? As a priest, there was even a sense that I had to be extraordinarily holy in answering that question. The annual question about what to give up for Lent was always something that caused some consternation and competition. "I'm holier... no I am" and such. Either way, depending on you spiritual journey, the question is a valid and fair one to make, especially of a person who is honestly trying to live a life of the Gospels. This Ash Wednesday, however, I would posit a different question to ponder, "what are you taking up for Lent?" This was something that I was first invited to consider many years ago and quite frankly, something that really made me reevaluate the way I approached Lent. At first, it was tempting to answer with a resounding, "I will take up chocolate for Lent!" but not liking chocolate, that really had no effect on my life. While this is certainly a question that many of us would want to answer in a funny and comical manner, the answer can actually have lasting effects on us if we truly take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that we may incur upon taking something up for Lent. All that being said, maybe taking something up isn't about starting a new tradition or doing something radically different, maybe it is make a conscious effort to have something small create a change in the routines of our daily living. For me, the challenge isn't so much to start something new, I already pray and I already have a set of devotions and fasting, so to start praying would be easy. Instead, the challenge that I choose to take on during this Lent is my awareness of the Divine in my daily life. Including prayer, I am actively going to try and be cognisant of the Divine in the daily experiences of life. What shape does the Divine take and how is my own awareness of the Divine a way of entering the Holy in an even more profound manner? Overall, the journey of Lent is a journey during which we encounter ourselves and the Holy in ways that we don't often think of. As we enter this sacred time of reflection and contemplation, my hope is that I grow and that we encounter love as Love is manifested in our daily journey. I hope and pray that this Lenten journey may be one of blessing and peace, and as always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved. Fr. Rick