Growing up in a Catholic family, Lent was always a fairly important part of the year. My siblings and I would have a competition every year to see who would get the darkest ashes on their forehead on Ash Wednesday or the biggest palm on palm Sunday. We would talk for days about what we were giving up. And once we declared our official Lent sacrifices, you can bet we policed each other mercilessly to uphold them. Very spiritual of us, I know.
As my walk with God has evolved over the past few years and expanded beyond Catholicism, I don’t focus on Lent quite so much. I have fast days throughout the year and I check in with God frequently about things I need to give up. Personally, I feel that type of spiritual growth should be ongoing rather than squished into 40 days.
These days, I no longer go to Catholic masses, but instead attend a non-denominational Church. Yet every year on Ash Wednesday, I still seek out a Catholic mass to pray, reflect, and get my ashes. I like the reminder that without my Creator, I am naught but dust. If not for my Savior, I would end up as mere dust again. I like the reminder that my worth was given to me by Jesus and not myself. I think it is mind-boggling and so humbling what Jesus endured – the magnitude of that, the amount of love and compassion behind it, is staggering to me. I could worship 24/7 for the rest of my life and still not give enough thanks for that. And for me, Ash Wednesday mass still encompasses all of these things in one. And so I go.
This year was no exception, but it was a bit different. I missed the afternoon mass because I was helping out my roommate’s aide (who is still in agony and unable to move around much after being hit by a city bus a week ago). The evening mass I attended instead happened to be bilingual – English and Spanish. It was interesting the way the cultures melded together. Sometimes we would sing songs in English to a tune traditionally heard in Spanish mass, or we would switch off line by line. There were two priests, and they took turns speaking in English and Spanish. But when it came time to pray, no switching was necessary. Hands joined and voices lifted to the sky. Spanish and English alike joined together. The languages were different, but the words were the same as we prayed together to our Father. And in that moment, when we forgot about whose turn it was or what the Spanish-speaking priest was doing vs the English-speaking one, when all focus shifted to Jesus Christ our Lord, I could feel His presence so strongly. It was truly amazing. My spirit was definitely stirred.
I have always had an appreciation for the season of Lent (even if I don’t adhere to the schedule as strictly as I once did), but today opened my eyes to an even deeper meaning of who God is, and how deeply the Holy Spirit resides within us. It doesn’t matter what language we speak or culture we’re from – God is so much bigger than that. Life isn’t bound by language or location. And though those things can divide us, together we are brothers and sisters under Christ. We are sons and daughters together. Without Him, our voices would be solitary and insignifcant. Without Him we would have been a room full of dust. But because He sacrificed for us, because He gave the precious gift of Life, our voices rang strong enough to resonate through the whole building.
Jesus, I praise You for who You are and what You did for me. I love You more than words can say.