By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
Just less than a week ago, the ashes we received on Ash Wednesday—boldly smeared or not—probably disappeared that evening, or maybe shortly after they were imposed on our foreheads or sprinkled on the tops of our heads. We have begun our grand celebration of Lent. Yes, our celebration of Lent
Lent gives us a scheduled, socially appropriate time to reflect, again, God's love for each of us by examining important parts of our daily lives. We are invited to pray about, to reflect on, to seek and to adopt changes we can make to bring the peace and joy, promised us in the Christmas season, to all parts of our lives, all of the time. Above all, we celebrate our God Who cares and loves us no matter what we have done or not done, our God Who gives us many chances to find the serenity He offers those who trust.
Many of us when we were young, might have learned, or thought it on our own, that Lent was a sad and difficult time, just a time to "give up things," or to do things we might have hated, because ...well, just because.
As we grow older and more mature, though, chronologically and in our faith, we can see that the Lenten traditions of penance really teach us to be awake, to be aware of who God is in our lives, to learn more fully who we are, to understand more deeply the places others hold in our lives. We also learn that the invitation of change at the heart of this season invites us to adjust our lives in ways we find leading us closer to God and our "real" selves, the selves God created us to be. God offers this is a season of hope as proof of a love for each of beyond death.
Even though we may have brushed or washed off the literal ashes of last week, they can remain alive and afire in our hearts throughout this grand season. They can incite from in our hearts the change we need in our lives.
We can pray that God will help us to be awake and aware of His presence and invitation to be closer to Himself, to ourselves and to others.
Happy Leap Year!