Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Historically, Lent was the period of preparation for those new disciples of Jesus Christ who were seeking to become part of his Body in baptism. The season of Lent is set aside for self-examination for all of his disciples, certainly; but even more importantly Lent is a time set aside for us to re-open our hearts and lives to receiving the wondrous message of love, redemption, and renewal in Jesus Christ.
As we prayerfully and intentionally contemplate his great love for us as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the the Holy Eucharist for the 40 days of Lent, we will discover those places in our lives where we have shut ourselves off from the source of our aliveness, hope, and faith. This is where we are invited to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to remove all those things in our lives that choke off the fullness of the life of Jesus in us, and to renew our first love with Jesus.
My prayer for all of us who are the Body of Christ gathered is that we will be renewed in our commitments as disciples of Jesus, filled anew with hope and joy, and discover just how much aliveness and grace he has to offer to us as we embrace his great love for us.
Our worship liturgies will begin with the Great Litany, a series of prayers and petitions sung back and forth between the congregation, choir, and the priest, prayers that come down to us from the early first centuries of the Church.
We all know that language changes over time, and that the meanings of words shift. I invite us all to bear in mind as we pray “Lord have mercy” that the word “mercy” also means “lovingkindness”. When we pray “Lord have mercy”, we are not just asking for God to turn aside his wrath; we are turning to the Lord, our loving Father, asking him to sweep us up into his arms as a mother gathers up her child who runs to her for comfort and assurance of love.
“Gather us up into the arms of your lovingkindness, O Lord”.