Ash Wednesday invites us to consider we are frail and mortal, with limited days upon the earth. “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We hear these words as ashes are inscribed on our brow and, marked with the sign of the cross, we consider how our lives as Christians are joined to our Savior.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness, which Lent recapitulates, was a time of discerning, testing, and strengthening resolve to be faithful. Lent can be this for us, also. Wilderness is not a foreign experience in the terrain of the heart, and we know the battles we fight there. When we “keep death daily before our eyes,” as the Rule of St. Benedict instructs, we recognize our need for the mercy of God.
The prophet invites us to “return to the Lord with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). This suggests that each must undergo self-examination and open our lives before God with new intentionality. For me, this requires disciplines that both add and subtract from regular patterns.
The Psalmist offers us the rights words to pray: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.” As we journey with Jesus through the desert toward the place of his death, we acknowledge that he walks the pathway before us, drawing us into the paschal rhythm of dying and rising.
Molly T. Marshall