This coming Wednesday (March 9th) the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a time of spiritual preparation (often achieved through the disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving) for the celebration of Easter.
It is helpful to note that we enter into Lent as “church” – we do not do this alone. Together we mark ourselves with the ashes of Ash Wednesday and together we begin this period of the forty days of Lent. Although we each have our own specific sacrifices that we make for the season we walk this journey together and there is something quite beautiful and profound about this.
This sense of doing Lent “together” is very Catholic I believe and really at the heart of what it means to be christian and what it means to be church. Through our baptisms into the Body of Christ we are not set adrift and left to our own devices but in fact knit together into a profoundly intertwined spiritual reality – connected with God and connected with one another. As Church we are indeed connected and we support one another in ways that we will never be fully aware of I believe until we all stand in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
As we approach Ash Wednesday it is good to remember that we do Lent together.
Pope Benedict in his book “St. Paul” offers these words on the reality of Church:
“And finally, one last nuance. In his Letter to Timothy Paul describes the Church as the ‘household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15), and this is a truly original definition because it refers to the Church as a community structure in which warm, family-type interpersonal relations are lived. The Apostle helps us to understand ever more deeply the mystery of the Church in her different dimensions as an assembly of God in the world. This is the greatness of the Church and the greatness of our call; we are a temple of God in the world, a place in which God truly dwells, and at the same time we are a community, a family of God who is love. As a family and home of God, we must practice God’s love in the world and thus, with the power that comes from faith, be a place and a sign of his presence.”
The Simpsons – in their tongue-in-cheek way – also help us to grasp a little of this reality…