From a Creighton Student's Perspective
February 6th, 2008
Senior, English and Women’s & Gender Studies
In order to prepare for his earthly ministry, Jesus retreated into the wilderness and fasted for forty days. It was a time of contemplation and preparation. In observing the Lenten season, the forty days before Easter, Christians join Jesus in this spirit of self-examination and spiritual redirection.
We begin the season today with Ash Wednesday. Many Christians will visit their churches to have their foreheads marked with ashes, a sign of humility, remorse and repentance. My roommate enjoys the sense of camaraderie she shares with the dozens of Christians she passes throughout the day. She cannot help but to offer a small smile to each face with a familiar smudge above her/his brow line.
In light of today’s Gospel reading, the tradition of wearing ashes seems rather peculiar. We mark ourselves in order to display our penance and contrition, and yet we hear Jesus telling his disciples to perform righteous deeds—to give alms to pray, and to fast—in secret. He directs our good deeds to be for God’s audience alone. Is to wear ashes to boast of your remorseful spirit? Do your ashes communicate the message, “Look at me; I’m a contrite Christian!”
For love of my roommate, I must propose that the ashes we wear today do not attempt to draw attention to our individual identity; rather, they gesture towards our shared identity as Christians. Our ashes are a sign of commitment and the external expression of our willing spirits, eager to become closer to God. Let us use the season of Lent to make changes, to examine those barriers in our lives which separate us from God and to overcome them. As you discern how best to observe the Lenten season, I challenge you to think not solely as an individual, but as a member of a Christian community. Our ashes may be washed away at the end of the day, but let us not forget our collective identity as Christians—how can we best use this season to contemplate the state of the Church, and contribute to its needs?
“A clean heart create for me, O God,
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook