This Lenten Journey

AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Just over a week ago, evil made its presence known yet again in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Like millions of other Americans, as I watched and listened to the headlines unfold outlining the bravery of first responders, the emotions of terrified students and their parents, and the polarized reactions of Americans, I was drawn to the images pouring in, the faces of the victims, the heroes, and of the community. The one which struck me most, however, was the image of the woman with ashes/the Cross on her forehead consoling another. This image has stayed with me more so than all others - this picture is definitely worth more than a thousand words – perhaps that is why for a few days after seeing it, it has been hard for me to place words to this image for it is an image of a Christian weeping amidst our broken world.  

Placing this image into the context of the day, I cannot help but imagine what the woman in the picture was thinking or feeling when she received the Cross of ashes the morning of the shooting – what was she hoping to encounter as she journeyed through the desert towards the Resurrection? What did she hope to reconcile as she journeyed towards the Cross? And now, what will Ash Wednesday mean to her in the years to come?

Because I do not personally know the woman weeping in this image, I cannot answer these questions, but there are some things that can be said with certainty. That is, I am certain that on the morning of February 14, 2018, Ash Wednesday, she did not anticipate that her first steps on the Lenten journey would be as painful as they were and continue to be. I am certain she had no idea what awaited her outside the walls of the Church that day, that evil would come in the way that it did.  And I am certain that God will continue to use her in the coming weeks to bring forward the love of Christ to those who need it most because that is what he calls us all to do when we encounter the lost and broken in the desert.

Lent is a time for renewal, to seek pathways for connections which draw us closer to Christ. It is a time for us to reflect upon the things we should be doing better and those things we should be letting go of because of their interference with our call to be the Christians Christ wants us to be. It is a beautiful journey, full of hope, fresh beginnings, and letting go. 

The image of the woman weeping amidst the tragedy of innocent lives lost is a reminder of all of these things and more…for the ashes on her forehead are a symbol that at the end of this journey, when we return to dust, Christ will be there to receive us in his arms and wipe away our tears – Christ conquered death and so shall we.