Ash Wednesday: Misreading the Ashes

Ash Wednesday
Today’s Readings
Reflexión en Español

We ran around the house frantically closing all the windows, trying in vain to keep out the ashes and the smell of burning trees. Like an old movie of some silent catastrophe, we watched an enormous cloud of smoke overtaking the coastline to the north. It seemed like all of California was burning. Months later, Australia would also be on fire, and on the other side of the world piles of ash would turn all the landscape gray as a volcano erupted in the Philippines.  

Perhaps we have been misreading the ashes.

hands, ashes

Perhaps as we receive a safely small smudge on our foreheads, we’ve forgotten that ashes are the result of violence and destruction. This Lent I want my ashes to remind me that the entire earth is groaning in pain and walking to Calvary with Christ. I want my ashes to help me feel the death of species and of landscapes. I want to know their sorrow and weep with them. I want my ashes to tell me about the radical sameness and kinship of all that is, because it needs me and I need it.  

This Lent, I want to hold hands with the whole earth, to remember God’s delight in its Creation and Christ’s embrace in his Incarnation. This Lent is about all of us: tiny creatures, vast forests, old folks and young. The one living organism that is planet earth, finally realizing our radical unity. And on Easter, rising together from our shared ashes to sow new seeds and help rebirth the abundant life that Jesus came to bring.

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