Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
You will let me hear gladness and joy;
the bones you have crushed will rejoice.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.
~ Psalm 51
Lent always begins with supplication, with the pilgrim on fallen knee receiving ashes along with a call to “turn away from sin, and believe in the Gospel.” For me this is never a gloomy reminder of my unworthiness but an invitation to rise.
In his book From Ash to Water, Luis Granados reminds us that we are ashes, we need the nourishment of God, and yet “ashes are not just a sign of death but also a promise of new life” (16). Ashes, Fr. Luis continues, “contain most of the essential nutrients plants need to thrive.” We receive ashes not simply to remind us we are sinners, but to remind us we are ministers of mercy, forgiveness and love. Water bearers who by our belief in the Gospel message bring kindness and hope to those in need.
Have you ever considered that YOU possess most of the essential nutrients others need to thrive?
In this regard, Lent is a time of JOY. A joy not unlike that great excitement we feel in the weeks leading up to a wonderful celebration. When planning for a birthday, wedding, or holiday gathering with family, we prepare our home to receive guests, set our tables, and prepare the finest foods. And so it is with joyful anticipation that we prepare our hearts and minds to receive our most precious guest, Jesus.
How will you prepare your vessel — your heart and mind? What needs to go to make room for God?
Lent is a time of reconciliation and transformation, when we leave behind the arid mediocrity of our day to day lives, let go of old resentments and destructive habits and through fasting, giving, and prayer rediscover through our hunger and thirst what is most important in our lives, what sustains and nourishes us, what fills our wells and waters our fields. God gives us these 40 days to rise from the ashes so that with a heart made new, we can then go forth to share our JOY with others.
Where in your life might you practice humility and meekness? Is there something you can not change and need to accept? Is there something you can change, with courage and wisdom?
During this sacred time we gather to celebrate ancient rituals, and we participate in a wondrous story unfolding in much the same way it did over 2000 years ago. What begins in darkness gives way to great light, tears turn into dancing, and life-changing rivers of flowing water restore us to new life. Lent is a time to reconnect with and journey deeper into the sacred mysteries of the Paschal Story and remember the generous gifts God shared with us at our baptism and continues to share with us each and every day. From Ash to Water. We are given these 40 days to remember. As Fr. Luis writes, “Lent wants to remind you of the gift, the great life you have received . . . the moment in which the water of Easter changed your life” (5). You are a beloved child of God, forgiven and filled with Grace beyond measure . . . Remember?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. ~ Marianne Williamson “A Return to Love”
What will you remember this Lent? Perhaps as you reflect on your own journey, you might consider ways you might fast from destructive thoughts or habits. You might look intently for opportunities to pour out love to a friend or family member or extend a hand to a stranger. You might set aside five minutes every morning as you rise to offer a prayer of gratitude to God working in your life or maybe you’d even consider visiting a labyrinth and practicing a contemplative prayer walk. The Lenten journey is, as Fr. Luis says, “a great path of small steps,” and you are not alone.
Teach me your paths, Lord
Show me your path
If you are making your way here for the first time, you have discovered a Lenten Retreat using Luis Granados’ book From Ash to Water. Sign up to receive notification of new posts by email. All are welcome!
For related posts in this retreat sequence see: