Ash Wednesday Reflections

Grace Killian



Today we enter the season of Lent, a season of penance and reflection as we prepare our hearts and minds for the new life that comes with Easter.
I have been wracking my brain for creatives ways to take advantage of spending Lent in the Holy Land. However, I found out yesterday that due to the continuing saga of my visa, I will not be spending most of Lent in Israel/Palestine.

My current visa expires next week and I must leave the country. My itinerary is still developing, but I will be sure to let you know as things progress. I am disappointed to leave this place I am learning to call home for an unknown amount of time, especially at such a time that would be so significant to spend here. But certainly the spiritual meaning is not lost by my current situation. I will now be a wanderer throughout Lent, much like Jesus wandering in the desert. I will not have a place to settle, much like the ancient Israelites lost in the wilderness. This is a new stage in my journey, with new lessons to learn and new ways to grow closer to God.

I have learned so much in the past almost 6 months. As I received ashes today to symbolizes my repentance, I reflected on my own sinful thoughts and the ways in which redemption for those thoughts have brought me to better understanding of what it means to be a Christian in this world. At times, I have been guilty of all the things in the following litany but certainly not only because I live in a foreign culture. Such thoughts can flash across our minds, if only for a second, wherever we find ourselves in the world. Injustice, oppression, and privilege exist everywhere.

When we fail to see Christ in the other; Lord have mercy.
When we let anger, even righteous indignation, prevent a gracious response; Lord have mercy.
When we fail to recognize our own privilege; Lord have mercy.
When we struggle and fail to relinquish our own privilege; Lord have mercy.
When we attempt to rank human suffering and injustice rather than recognize that injustice anywhere is related in injustice everywhere; Lord have mercy.
When, in our attempts to love the other, we reduce them to an easy-to-understand stereotype; Lord have mercy.
When we forget that the oppressed are nothing more or less than human too and expect them to be perfect; Lord have mercy.
When we forget that the oppressor is also human and not beyond the reaches of God's grace; Lord have mercy.
When we are the oppressor; Lord have mercy.
When we fail to take the log out of our own society's eye before removing the fleck of dust from another's; Lord have mercy.
When we hide in easy answers out fear of complexity; Lord have mercy.
When we tire of our call to be exiles and strangers in a strange land; Lord have mercy.

As we enter this season of Lent, may Christ guide us as we wander with penance seeking resurrection and new life. While all the evils of unjust systems exist globally, the good news is that redemption is just as global and more powerful.  I pray that we all experience a meaningful Lent, removing the burden of the sins past and moving towards new life, not merely on a personal level but on a societal level as well.


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