Sallie Latkovich, CSJ
As given by Sister Sallie at Catholic Theological Union's Ash Wednesday Prayer Service on February 14, 2018
Another Ash Wednesday. . .another Lent. It rolls around every year. Maybe you have memories of Ash Wednesdays or Lenten Days past.
Why is Ash Wednesday so important to people who are not otherwise observant of their faith? When I was an undergrad student at Cleveland State, I worked at the CYO Office at the Cleveland Chancery building. It was next door to St. John Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. Each year I would observe the office buildings empty out as people came for ashes all day long. On one Ash Wednesday, I was at the noonday Eucharist, and was processing up to receive Communion. The man in front of me, when offered the Body of Christ said: “OH, I didn’t come for that, where are the ashes?” Why are ashes so important?
Then, there’s the practice of giving something up for Lent. My second grade teacher thought this was a great idea, and asked the first child in the first row what they would give up. M & M’s. The second child said: M & M’s and potato chips. The third child said: M&M’s, potato chips, and TV. I was nearly the last child in the last row, and grew more uncomfortable as each one shared their giving-ups.
In the midst of our memories, what might be the message for us today? First of all, I’d like to suggest the word LENT comes from the romantic languages where LENTO, as in music, means to go slow. We tend to be on such a fast track that life speeds by us. But, when we move slowly, we can see life much better. It does take a community to go slow, like in a revolving door. Let us encourage one another to go slow this Lent.
I’ve chosen a single line from each of the readings that might stir our souls, and send us into this Lenten season.
From Joel: RETURN TO ME WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART.
In the midst of our busy lives, it is easy to become half-hearted in our relationship with God. If the truth be told, we sometimes lose heart. This Lenten season is God's own invitation to us to open our whole heart, to be re-claimed for Christ as we were at Baptism.
From 2 Corinthians: BE RECONCILED TO GOD.
In our time, and in our culture, honest reconciliation may be thought to be a lost art. May we be reawakened to the call of the Gospel to be reconciled, to come to wholeness within ourselves, with our sisters and brothers, with God's own self. Let us let go of long held resentments, hurts, blame and take up the desire of Jesus himself: that all may be one.
From Matthew: YOUR FATHER SEES WHAT IS HIDDEN
When my nephew Patrick was six or seven, he came to look after their next door neighbors, a couple who had just had their first child. Patrick saved up his coins and stopped at a bakery on the way home from school. He bought three cookies, and left them at the door of the neighbors' house. Then, he hid so he could watch the new Mom's reaction to his gift. My brother hadn't seen this kindness, but upon hearing of it, relished in the hidden kindness of his young son. Just so, may we be attentive to the hidden kindnesses we can offer during this Lenten season. For we know that God sees all that we do: in prayer, in fasting and in almsgiving.
May our CTU Community enter into this Lenten season, whole-heartedly, being a reconciling presence to one another and in our world, and attentive to hidden acts as we pray, fast and give alms.
May God be blessed.
Click here for RFC's list of Lenten reflections and resources for 2018