‘Fished my wish’ at Mass this morning.
Some background: I was suitably amused the other day to discover @BillDonahy’s ‘Catholic Guide To Ashes’ on the Twittersphere. Tickled enough, in fact, to retweet his graphic – along with a note that I most often experience ‘The Blob’ when the ashes are imposed.
Naturally, that’s exactly what happened today. Ain’t it a beaut?
And the imposition of The Blob got me thinking about how familiarity can quickly become a demon for us during this holy season of Lent. The things we’re used to seeing…and saying…become something like the background noise of our spirituality, a kind of outdated Lenten wallpaper that we no longer even notice.
Or worse: a defective habit of thinking—one that can seriously damage the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Lord.
I confronted just such a demon on Ash Wednesday a few years ago: A deeply-rooted sense of guilt. Because it flared up like a bad case of psoriasis every spring, I’d become fairly adept at managing the affliction: Not seeking a cure, but simply ignoring the symptoms.
In doing so, I kept the demon at bay…but in retrospect, I think I also got way too skillful at squashing the Spirit’s promptings in my life.
So, what changed? I wrote about my journey in the introduction to my original blog – Steadfast Spirit 2013:
…[W]hen Mardi Gras 2013 rolled around, it occurred to me that I was dreading the beginning of Lent. I found myself hating the whole idea of this season of renewal: the reminder that I am sinful, that I am slothful, that I am comfortable – or that, because I am loved, my practices and habits could actually change.
I remembered what I had journaled at the start of Lent last year:
Psalm 51 this morning: My prayer, my refrain for Lent: “Create a clean heart for me, O God…and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” How often have I prayed these very words…but today at Mass I realized that I really meant them…and I felt a stirring of hope that You would answer them in me…that You desire to answer them in me: a clean heart, and a steadfast spirit. I desire them, too, Lord…and I pray for that desire to continue to grow in me.
It’s tempting to assert that my loving Father left that little prayer unanswered.
It’s probably closer to the truth to note that I have squandered much of the grace He poured out on me over the past twelve months. Squandered it, looking for guarantees…clinging to pride…pathetically longing for fame.
That’s my baggage. It weighs me down, even though I know better: “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey.” (Mk 6:8)
Nothing, perhaps, but the steadfast spirit I’ve been praying for all these months. Something tells me, it’s been there all along. So you could say this blog is my Lenten almsgiving: My pledge to pay attention to the spiritual bounty that the Lord sets before me…and to share that Good News with others.
Guess what? We heard those same words from Psalm 51 at Mass this morning. We also heard a familiar passage from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
That’s the promise, as we begin Lent in 2016. Are we ready to hear?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.