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Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”
You may not be able to accurately judge a book by its cover, but you can know something about it, like its title and author. The same is true for people. You may not be able to judge someone quickly, but you can know something about them by the way they look and dress. For example, when someone wears a Dallas Cowboy’s jersey with Tony Romo’s number on it, it means they are brave or looking for trouble. If you come across a kid wearing a Texas Ranger’s baseball cap, it means that kid forgets and forgives easily. If someone wears a Mavericks jersey, it means they expect some respect. If someone wears ashes on their forehead, it either means they have come out of a fire alive or they are an acknowledged and repentant sinner. In this case, both possibilities would not be far from the truth.
On this day, Ash Wednesday, we have walked out of our burning home, alive, and walked straight into the burning bush of the Lord! Today, we have humbly acknowledged our failing and have asked the Lord for pardon and strength. It takes a humble individual to acknowledge his or her sins. But the truth of the matter is: we are all sinners. And the truth of the matter is: we don’t all believe it.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Last year, on Ash Wednesday, an old lady came up to me to receive her ashes. As I was placing the ashes on her forehead I said to her, “Remember that you are dust…” but before I could finish, she blurted out, “And so are you!” I told her, “I know I am, that’s why you see ashes on my forehead too!”
For some reason, we love to point out the defects of others. For the very same reason, we have a hard time pointing out our very own. The reason for both is the same, PRIDE!
Why do we do what we do? "Please don't come up to me and say, "So, what are you going to give up this year for Lent?" Don't ask me! Ask instead, "Who do you want to be during Lent?" That's the question! And the answer will determine what I should give up for Lent. Why Lent? Why even bother? Christians did not invent personal reflection time. Christians were not the first to say to the human race, “Seek silence, solitude and simplicity in order to better yourselves.” Since the beginning of time, men have reflected. The Greeks reflected just as well as the Romans. Barbarians and atheists reflect too. Even Adolf Hitler reflected about his life (and struggles) a great deal and wrote about it while he was in prison. But what were Hitler's struggles? Was he struggling on how to save lives or eliminate them? Hence, the problem with journaling! If our reflections only reflect ourselves then we reflect like a mirror. What is missing is a standard, something like a star to point to; something or someone to strive towards or to bounce ourselves off of. What is missing is someone that can tell us if we are truly progressing or messing around. We all need someone like a Rock. Ashes on my forehead remind me that I belong to the human race but that I am striving towards a higher standard! But who?
Lent presents itself as the perfect season to get away from the crowd, as far as possible from humanity. Throughout the centuries, individuals have used philosophy as their star, a guru as their goal, a Buddha as their rock, or a Mohammad as their prophet, and I believe it helps them to get further away from the crowd, but in the wrong direction. To be a faithful follower of a certain philosophy, or guru, or religion could very well lead to the destruction of the human race. But to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to live by his words and example, could only mean a love for all!
Christians seek Christ, and I believe Christ will get you to the highest point, the greatest point, and the furthest possible point away from humanity by bringing you to the heights of the Saints, and depths of your own humanity.
There is nothing more tragic than an elderly individual who looks back on their life and regrets the decisions they made! How can one avoid this? What is the solution? Christ is the solution and Lent is the means.
Take some time every day to reflect on who you are and what kind of person you have become. But your reflection must include Christ's life and the decisions he made. If I notice a difference between myself and the Lord, then I need to bridge this gap! Then, and only then, can I be sure that I am living my life with the highest standard of living!