Wednesday, March 6, 2019
From Matthew 6
When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.
Today we wear our ashes proudly. As least I do. The joy I feel when the pastor makes a char-black ashy cross on my forehead comes but once a year. These religious ashes are made from last year’s palm leaves, the ones held and swung by our children as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Now on our foreheads this simple and profound circle of life comes all the way around.
But Jesus’ words call me into quiet, not proclamation. After this first day of public ashes come weeks of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All this is best done in silence.
There might be a downside to this quieting time. When I spend time alone in my prayer closet, I tend to become quiet elsewhere too. I don’t communicate as well with others when I settle into a long springtime of prayer and fasting. I love the intimacy I sometimes feel with God. But the last thing I want to do is become less intimate with God’s other kids, especially Margaret. We both love God, and we love each other. And I need to say so!
At a daylong Lenten retreat I attended yesterday, the facilitators prayed for us: “May you enter fully into your own un-ease.” I sat (quietly) in the convent chapel and received their words. They asked us to accept a gift from God for each of the five weeks of Lent.
These gifts surprised me: temptation, darkness, suffering, reconciliation, and “moving on.” After each talk the presenters prayed over us. And always, in the midst of the requests, “May you enter fully into your own un-ease.”
I know being with God brings joy to my life with others. Of course it does. “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame” (Psalm 34). I can share that joy, and share my smile. I can look straighter than ever into the eyes of my brothers and sisters. God’s acceptance of me flows into my acceptance of them.
I can notice whatever “un-ease” I feel about that transitioning. I don’t need to ignore it or make it into a mountain. Instead I can enter it, talk through it, be quiet while God does his work with it.
I can give thanks. And I can talk with those I love.
Let me taste and see your goodness, Lord. When I seek you, when you deliver me from all my fears, let your wholeness precede my words and infuse my gaze toward others. You love us all. What a freeing thing that is for me. I can love like you!