Day 1, Ash Wednesday: Lent Begins…and I Choose!
BY FR. GREGORY CHISHOLM, S.J. | March 1, 2017 (Ash Wednesday)
The revels of Fat Tuesday belong to yesterday and last night.
Today, I rise from sleep, instantly aware of the power given to me by God to make this Lenten season my own. I am no longer a child. I am not in bondage to earthly powers.
On the contrary, I am able, as I begin this discipline: to engage, to withdraw, to pray, to despair, to help, to defeat, to reveal, to hide. The power given me at this moment by God is that I can choose what I shall be. I can choose what I shall be in the press of the morning commute or in the scrum of the teacher’s lounge. I can choose what I shall be as my fingers type me through the day’s emails or as my children direct me through their newest dramas.
I choose to believe on this first day of Lent.
I choose the discipline of living my life in relation to God and other human beings. My respect and love of God has kept me whole for too many of my yesterdays to count.
I choose to love my family today. I remember what it was like to be separated from those who have known me longer than I have known myself. They have accepted me when there were enough reasons not to do so.
I choose to respect my colleagues today. Their struggles are not foreign to me. Their idiosyncrasies are just variations of my own.
I choose this Ash Wednesday to welcome the stranger, the outsider, the underrepresented today, for I too have been strange in this land. I know well the fear. I have seethed with the anger. I have been visited by the loneliness of being different.
Finally, as I begin this Lenten journey, I choose to forgive and I pray that God may have mercy enough to forgive me!
- Do you consider that you have lived too long to make a new choice for Lent? (Joel 2:12-14)
- How might you become aware today of the power to choose which God has given you? (Deut 30:18-20)
- How might the choices we make at the beginning of Lent affect how we treat people who are different from ourselves? (Lev 19:33-34)
Fr. Gregory Chisholm, S.J., is an African American Jesuit of the United States Northeast Province. He currently is Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Resurrection and All Saints Parish in Harlem in New York City, serving a diverse congregation made up principally of persons of African descent.
I may do something as concrete as setting hourly reminders of my power to choose. I am still sort of young, but sometimes it is hard for me to keep in mind my power to choose my attitude. I forget that when my children come to me full of enthusiasm and joy when I am so tired, that I can choose to really feel their excitement. And I forget when I hear examples of hatred and injustice that I can choose to feel anger and move on to love, instead of dwelling in anger.
” … I too have been strange in this land. I know well the fear. I have seethed with the anger. I have been visited by the loneliness of being different.” This week ABC is airing the miniseries, When We Rise. A happy coincidence, I think, to the “Rise Up” journey you have begun here today … speaking as a 62 year old gay man.
Lent is a time of reflection, and if we give ourselves wholely to the Lenten season from the very start, we might begin to see that the way we treat the least of our brothers and sisters is a reflection on the way we inturn treat God.
God gave us free will so it is up to us to start treating one another with dignity and respect.
It is so delightful to see that Fr. Greg is still doing good works. I was briefly a member of Holy Name of Jesus in LA when he was pastor there. It was a glorious experience. He is among the best priests I have ever encountered. Harlem is so lucky to have him.