Daily Reflection
March 1st, 2006

Jeanne Schuler

Philosophy Department
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Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
1 Corinthians 5:20 -- 6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Ruin descends on the people like a swarm of locusts. All their efforts cannot make this trouble go away. Numb, they hear the trumpet and gather, even the children and the newly wed. As a community they turned from God. Together they weep and pray and beg for mercy. Their sinfulness can be hidden no longer.

Trouble must grow large before we ask for help. Our wisdom calls for self-reliance. Only the needs of the unfortunate are public, like the homeless man stretched out on a park bench. We build high walls to guard our privacy. Behind these walls we disguise mistakes and keep failings secret. People of wealth and power do not need mercy.

Ordinary life. To a great degree we live outside ourselves. We wonder: what are others thinking? How do I compare? What’s the best move? Data streams through our lives. We are saturated and strategic. Trying to stay ahead of the rest. Trying to keep my losses hidden. Testing and grading so I’m sure to be good enough.

Today I leave work early. Ashes are rubbed into my skin, a sign that the ordinary is left behind. Time slows down in the quiet of a desert. I look for my self, but I am nowhere to be found. Behind the closed door, someone cries out: I am the rocky soil. I am the Pharisee. I am the empty room. I am tired of tests. Today these walls give way to ashes. You can restore me.

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