Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Ashes, Ashes, We all Fall Down
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Much can be said when it comes to Ash Wednesday but little is really appropriate in my mind save confessing that we are rarely as humble and contrite as our honest human predicament demands. Most of us do our best and yet feel inadequate some or all of the time, and yet we are quick to judge our neighbor and love all the shows that display people as they are falling apart. We watch with fascination as Charlie Sheen falls apart in front of our eyes. And yet, each of us know that we too live with illusions of grandeur, we trick ourselves into thinking we are "all that". We turn other people's tragedies into our taunts and too often, teach our children to do likewise - ring around rosy came from people dying of the plague.
Jesus points out our very human condition. Accepting the truth of what he says is the beginning of Lent, the beginning of the way of a pilgrim, walking the road to Jerusalem. We are all captivated by our own self-importance. We are invited to seek our insignificance and our humility, for they are what draw us to God. Our vanity keeps us away, our need invites us near.
So today, I offer my need and my heart to God, wiping the true grit and dirt of my life on my face so that honesty and truth may reign. This Ash Wednesday, on this new pilgrimage, I ask God to give me the strength to turn and face all of the scars of my own humnaity, all of the hurts I have inflicted and all of the way I have closed my heart off to God and to love. May this be a season for us all, where we grow into the full humanity of Christ as we seek to walk the pilgrim's road with him.