Because it was very chilly and we each wished to get again to our heat locations, I fumbled with one thing fast to say. “It’s Ash Wednesday,” I stated. However that didn’t get very far. “I’m Catholic … it’s a spiritual factor.”

I do not know what that conveyed to him, however that was so far as we acquired.

Lower than a yr later, I moved to D.C. to finish my theological coaching. I started my research on September eleventh. I finished carrying my keffiyeh not lengthy after after I rode the metro. Throughout my research, which included interfaith dialogue, I’ve gone again to that second greater than as soon as.

I notice now, the less complicated clarification might have been: “I’m a sinner getting into Lent.”

Within the current …

So right here we’re in 2021. Ash Wednesday this yr falls after the 57-43 vote on Former 45’s second impeachment for the January 6 riot (our personal self-inflicted 9/11). It additionally comes after Valentine’s Day/Parkland Anniversary and the Tremendous Bowl amid Black Historical past Month to remind us of all of the issues we are able to cram into the shortest month. And like all the things in 2021, the calendar cycles by means of a lens of the way it’s not 2020, however we’re nonetheless not previous its shadow both.

I don’t know whether or not mainstream media will make an enormous deal of Ash Wednesday with our second Catholic president. I believe he would possibly go to mass and would most certainly have ashes imposed (maybe positioned on his brow, maybe sprinkled). 

The scripture readings for the day are a bit ironic. They speak about the best way to not make a present of your self. For instance, in case you are fasting, you must nonetheless clear your self up and go about your day. In spite of everything, what you’re doing isn’t for others to see, however for God to see. On the similar time, there’s a collective name for a public gathering and show so that everybody in the neighborhood understands and commits themselves to this era of reflection and preparation upfront of Easter.

I’ll depart it to monks’ homilies and secular pundits to apply these things to our everyday lives. I’ve a behavior of eager to expertise issues anew, not merely to repeat them. Whereas I take pleasure in rituals and traditions, I’m far more fascinated about change and transformation. Lent all the time begins with Ash Wednesday. It’s all the time 40 days. It all the time includes fasting, abstinence, and works of charity. It all the time culminates in Easter and Jesus’ resurrection.

Briefly, as I used to say after I taught such issues in parish ministry, HE all the time rises. Good for Him. The query is, what occurred to us? How have we modified? How do I’ve a greater reply for the stranger who was much less involved about me paying for gasoline and wished as an alternative to know extra about me and why I used to be there?

The only factor I can say in 2021 is that this. “Keep in mind you’re mud, and to mud, you shall return.” That is usually what is alleged because the ashes are traced on foreheads within the signal of the cross. After 2020, mortality stares us within the face globally in a exceptional approach. It’s the nice equalizer. The baseline from which the human spirit arises in solidarity and acknowledgment of our inherent dignity. (Notions of pro-life don’t fairly seize that.)

The opposite factor we Christians attempt to bear in mind is that somebody died for us and that calls us to alter our lives radically. I don’t count on non-Christians or secular folks to come back to that very same conclusion. However I feel we are able to all have a look at 2020 or our lives earlier than and acknowledge that sacrifices have been made and that individuals have died earlier than us. And we owe them one thing. We have to do one thing to honor that debt and pay it ahead.

  • We owe Officer Brian Sicknick and two different fallen officers for doing their obligation on January 6, alongside the braveness of Officer Eugene Goodman, who continues to be with us.
  • We owe our funding to raised public well being and security for the two.4M lifeless worldwide and 450K+ within the USA from COVID-19.
  • We owe our continued dedication to social justice within the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis.
  • We owe it to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, among so many other lives that matter to work for systematic change.
  • We have to dedicate ourselves to addressing local weather change as at the very least 54 are reported dead and another 200 are missing in India after a glacier broke within the Himalayas.
  • We bear the burdens of 500+ children, separated from their families whereas making an attempt to cross the border in search of asylum. They are nonetheless lacking.

The record might and does go on. Everyone knows lack of one form or one other. All of us discover hope someplace that this isn’t the top for us. We have now to be ready. We have now to prepare. Are 40 days sufficient? Are Biden’s first 100? Be resolved, we all know what it has price.

Any person died for you. Make your life rely for them.

Postscript …

Muslim ban protester stands outside ADAMS center in support as Muslim woman and child come to the mosque to pray.
My first protest of the Trump period: Neighbors protesting the Muslim Ban Feb. 7, 2017, stand in solidarity outdoors ADAMS heart in Sterling, Virginia, close to Dulles airport, whereas Muslims come to wish.

I frolicked with many Muslims in Atlanta apart from that gasoline attendant. Hassan was the chief of safety on the museum the place we each labored. He was a high-level engineer from Iraq, however this was the one job he might get within the states, maybe due to his background as a soldier. I bear in mind calling him from close to the World Commerce Middle simply moments after we first began bombing his nation.

“It’s OK,” he stated. “He’s a madman.” I additionally bear in mind his final phrases to me earlier than I left the realm. “After I have a look at you, I see your keffiyeh and say to myself: There may be my pal…