080206-N-7869M-057(Ash Wednesday 2015) Another year another beginning of Lent, another six week march toward Easter. When I was young it was a big deal to tell everyone what you were “giving up” for Lent, as if Lent itself needed anything given up. But we did. What you gave up impressed people and became a time for sticking out your chest in great humility and listening to people tell you how holy or something you were. We gave up candy (#1 on a kid’s list) or giving up being a pain in the ass to your sister or little brother (that used to last until Ash Wednesday night) or doing your chores with no grumbling (of course when puberty hit, all bets were off). And so it was, when I was young, the essence of Lent was “giving up.” What have you given up for Lent? Oh, and by the way, just how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? I know, that was unfair, after all it was a month ago. Things change, stuff has to be done and so on and so on…blah blah blah…

I guess the take away from this day is a call to humility more than anything else. (When you are wearing a reminder of death on your forehead it kinda sorta tells you that you’re not as much of a big shot as you think you are.) It is a time when the bluster of being right all the time maybe needs a revision of sorts. I hope you are sitting down because I have something to tell you…I’m not always right. I know it’s a shock to everything you hold near and dear, but it’s the truth. (Of course, if you hold Fox News near and dear, they are truthful only about 14% of the time…but I digress) I take my cue on humility from the readings  for today which focus on the interior humility rather than the exterior signs, what other people see. (Me giving up chocolates and stuff)

Rend your hearts, not your garments, (Joel 2:13)

Great beginning to this humility stuff. It’s an interior job to open the heart and follow its small voice to do the right thing.

When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others. (Matthew 6:1)
“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting. (Matthew 16)

It’s really difficult not to let other people know just how humble you are. It’s almost un-American. But I guess if I am constantly looking for admiration as a kind of validation then what am I doing anything for? But whatever this season is, it is not “giving up” something, it’s “doing something.” What that means for you and me is starting with the quiet voice of the heart. “Who’s hurting?” followed by “How can I help?” Rather than condemning with a broad brush,  I ask myself “how I can I build up?” Rather than stuck in an “us” vs  “them” mentality, how can I focus on the “we?” How can I do something rather than sit and bitch about everything? And really, how can I continue to move forward rather than backward?

Time is of the essence if the ashes on my forehead are any indication. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes as the saying goes. So as my biological time clock continues to tick, I realize that it is time get up and do something rather than to give up something.

Life is a journey. When we stop, things don’t go right.
Pope Francis

and so it goes...