A homily for Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday is the Christian day especially set aside for penitence and seeking of God’s forgiveness, achieved through the reminder of our mortal lives that exist within this creation, the reminder that we are part of this creation of God and when our mortal lives end, we will return to the primordial elements from which God brought forth life into this creation.

So, on this special day of penitence, of fasting, of forgiveness seeking, we echo the words from 2 Corinthians:

“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

To be reconciled to God, is not simply to bring your sins before God and seek forgiveness. Reconciliation is more profound than forgiveness, because it calls us to move one step beyond that forgiveness into relationship, to restore harmony and balance, to make our lives consistent with that which we profess to be our faith, to reform the bonds of familial relationship with God.

And, in seeking reconciliation with God, we are illumined to the reality that we cannot be reconciled to God if we have not been reconciled to our neighbor. That coexisting in harmony with the creator is only a reality if we are coexisting in harmony with the creation, that is, with one another, with our neighbor.

This is not an easy task.

This is a high bar to achieve.

That is why Ash Wednesday holds such a powerful place in the practice of our faith.

The ashes we receive today are a reminder of our reality in this creation and they afford us an opportunity to unburden ourselves, to pour out our own sinfulness so fully and completely, and to receive the mark of Christ in return. The ashes are an entry point into a more fuller relationship with our creator, and through that, a reminder that the only way into that fuller relationship with God comes through a fuller relationship with the creation of God, our neighbors in this creation.

Our neighbors who are family.

Our neighbors who are friends.

Our neighbors who are coworkers.

Our neighbors who root for the wrong sports team.

Our neighbors who are enemies.

Our neighbors who have hurt us, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Part of our fuller relationship with God’s creation is the recognition that there are those who have harmed us, and those whom we have harmed, knowingly and unknowingly.

And, in this recognition, that God is always calling us into reconciliation. 

To create harmony and balance in our lives and relationships once more. 

This is not to say that we are called to ignore what has been done to us, or to demand forgiveness for what we have done to others, but rather to recognize that these moments do not reflect the love of God at work in this world, at work in our lives. 

When we recognize and accept this reality, we are able to begin to repair the boundaries that have been broken. 

When we recognize and accept this reality, we are able to begin to forgive the harm that has been done, to seek forgiveness for the harm we have inflicted (and to connect to the remorse and true repentance that must come from our own selves).

This process is one of healing, spiritual and emotional healing that also creates room for physical healing. For carrying these burdens has a real, physical toll on our bodies. And, it is only through our unburdening that the weight is lifted off of us and our physical beings can heal with our spiritual and emotional selves.

“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In reconciliation, find hope.

In reconciliation, find healing.

In reconciliation, find connection.

Connection to our creator.

Connection to each other.

Connection to our neighbors.

All of our neighbors.

And, receive the ashes as you are invited into the practice of a holy Lent, today.

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