Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
All of the sudden it is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In the midst of a winter that has crippled so many, we take time to reflect on our humanity, our failings and humble ourselves as we prepare for the coming passion of Christ and Easter. It is a holy moment, a liminal moment, when we turn inward and have a conversation with ourselves and with God. We are invited to be humble in the coming days, seeking not our will but God's will, and recapturing gratitude.
Lent is also a time when many give something up. Others find it more useful to take something up, embrace a discipline or service that helps them reflect on God's blessings in their life. While in Rome, we met with an order of folks who - both lay and ordained alike commit to three simple rules of life. Live simply, pray once a day at a designated time and befriend the friendless. Over the years their ministries have grown in phenomenal ways. We ate in a restaurant where they teach developmentally delayed folks to cook and serve so they can go on to full employment. They take up loving others in order to bring Christ's love to the world.
May this Ash Wednesday be a time when we all turn inward and follow outward where God is calling. May we be truly humble so that God can use us to being the love of Christ to the world through our loving.