Ash Wednesday – a day of renewal, of beginning anew.
When I was a campus minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, I loved to go to the Ash Wednesday liturgies. They were mobbed with people. Many times I was privileged to distribute the ashes, signing people with a cross of ashes.
I don’t know how many times I filled up, close to tears, as I distributed ashes or watched hundreds of young people come forward. There is something marvelous about being signed with ashes – we remember we are dust dependent on God.
This is my first Ash Wednesday in Honduras. Last year I was in the US for a visit. Lent is bound to be different here, since for many every day is a Lent, a time of fasting – forced fasting.
A few weeks before he was martyred, Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero said,
“Lenten fasting is not the same thing in those lands where people eat well as is a Lent among our third-world peoples, undernourished as they are, living in a perpetual Lent, always fasting. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need. But in poor lands, in homes where there is hunger, Lent should be observed in order to give to the sacrifice that is everyday life the meaning of the cross.”I don’t know exactly what this Lent will be for me, but I have an inkling it will be a calling to let go even more.Homily of March 2, 1980
The theft of my computer and many other things has really affected me. I miss some of the things that were stolen, even though I’ve been able to buy a new computer and some other things. The rain jacket, the radio, the Keen sandals, my Dad’s wedding ring, some CDs, some of the work I had saved on the computer that is gone.
I have been looking for a more secure place to live. With the help of the Spanish Franciscan sisters who live up the street, I found one today. It’s $50 more a month but it’s in the same neighborhood and seems more secure. But I need to face the precariousness of life here.
But I am also thinking about letting go in another sense. When I left Ames I stored hundreds of books with friends. One friend is moving to a smaller location and I have to think about what to do with the books being stored there.
I have a list of most of the books I’ve stored and where they are stored. This evening I began looking at the list and decided that I really need to give away many of them. I even began highlighting which ones to give to the St. Thomas library, which ones to give to the ISU philosophy department library, which ones to pass on to other folks. In some ways this is hard, since I’m a pack rat (like my Dad) and also find security in books, even ones I have already read and ones that I may never get around to reading. But it’s time to let go, even more – to share these books with others.
But letting go is not something good for its own sake. Letting go can be a way of becoming free – to serve, to be present, to love.
And that’s the challenge for me this Lent – to let go so that I may be free to love.