Father Joel, Mike and I hit the streets of Medford for our first Ashes to Go, where we offered the imposition of ashes to anyone who came by. Most people politely refused, but about half asked what Ash Wednesday was. I told them it was the beginning of Lent, and it was the day we reflected on our mortality and our sins.
We reflect on our mortality, in my mind, for two reasons. First, by embracing that we will not live forever, I hope we will be able to get on with our lives. As I grow older, I realize how little time 56 years really is. What have I done with all those years? How many do I have left? What will I do with the ones I have left. Second, when we reflect on how fleeting brief life is, we can be amazed that our lives do mean something–to God and to others. How can we continue to make our lives count?
We reflect on our sins, because only by embracing our sinfulness can we find forgiveness. I learned this both by working in the psych ward at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (the patients who refused to believe they will ill never got better) and in my own life, as I embraced who I was, warts and all. Amazingly, if we do that, we can truly experience the fact that God loves us, warts and all. God does not just love us in spite of our faults–I believe God loves us through our faults.
As we shared the meaning of Ash Wednesday, we got into some really good discussions with some of the students coming out of Rogue Community College. One in particular was getting ready to do a speech on Mindfulness and Meditation for his speech class, and we discussed mindfulness, Buddhism and Christianity. He talked about Buddhist meditation and shared with him about Ignatian spirituality.
Some people approached us and asked for the imposition of ashes. Others seemed to say, “Sure, why not?” while others thanked us and said they were unable to go to their own churches, but appreciated the chance to be marked on the streets.
For too many years the church has waited for people to come to us. It is about time we started going to the people. It was moving at times, fun at times, uncomfortable at times, but rewarding the whole time.
I cannot wait until next year!