Ash Wednesday comes as a diagnostic moment for those who choose to observe it. We remember our limits, our contingency, the shortness and uncertainty of human life: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
This is a hard truth, one that should help us live with greater engagement and gratitude for the present. Very early this morning, at the first Eucharist of Ash Wednesday, I shared in my homily that the season of Lent is a way of making a new beginning and an opportunity to relive the story of God’s longing for us and our longing for God. What else would cause us to gather before dawn in a dimly lit chapel other than our longing for the one relationship that helps us make sense of human life?
The wisdom, passion, and brilliant life that is the story of Jesus, is also our story—the means by which our lives take on greater meaning and significance. The alternative stories of the world—stories of appearance, achievement, and affluence—have worn achingly thin in light of the historic times we live in. That is why Jesus’ announcement of the existence and availability of another dimension of life, the announcement that the Kingdom of God has drawn near in time and place, strikes us as good news. It is this story, God’s story of healing and reconciliation, of sufficiency and grace, that we are invited to enter with willing receptivity in this Season of Lent.
Todd Hunter defines repentance as “the implementation process of switching stories.” That’s a new twist on repentance for me, and one that illumines the journey of Lent in a fresh way. What overarching story is currently defining my life? In practical terms, how does that story shape my thoughts, judgments and actions? Maybe it’s time to switch stories once again.