Today is Ash Wednesday. If you don’t know why there is Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday here is the 30 second version: Mardi Gras, which culminates on Fat Tuesday, is the last hurrah before the Lenten season begins. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The “ash” is literal. Churches take the palms blessed and distributed the Palm Sunday of the year before and burn them into ashes. The faithful show their penitence by having that ash smeared in the sign of the cross on their foreheads today. Lent is a somber 40 day season of penitence and reflection leading up to the most holy time of the Christian calendar: Easter.
Each year as Ash Wednesday approaches, I try to decide what I will give up that year for Lent. Christians give up a favorite thing to remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made for us in Jesus Christ. Nothing we could do could ever compare with His sacrifice, of course, but if you know someone who loves coffee or chocolate and they go cold turkey… well you know what I mean! Sometimes I pledge my time or talent to an activity instead of giving up something. Whatever it is that you decide, it should mean something.
What I have noticed over the years is that fewer and fewer people actually follow this tradition. We live in a country of largesse, and despite bad financial times, our poor would be filthy rich in many other countries. Those who live below the poverty level in the US still have luxuries like televisions, running water, air conditioning and cell phones. Enviable things for someone living below the poverty level in, say, east Africa or the far East, or what is left of formerly Christian Mosul, Iraq. Yet we have a “poor” class in America who by and large do nothing beyond demand more and more from those willing to work and give. I would hope that Lent would be a time for them to reassess that behavior, but I’m not holding my breath.
We are a nation rich in many ways, and we take it all for granted. Sometimes to our disadvantage. We live with freedoms that we have become so accustomed to having that we have gotten lazy. We allow the infringement of those freedoms. Why? Because of the fear of violence for one. We fear terrorism, so we have allowed all sorts of invasions of our privacy at our airports. We fear gun violence by a few criminals so we have allowed horrible infringements to our Second Amendment rights in the name of being “safe”. We then find that we aren’t any safer for allowing those rights to be abridged, but are unable or unwilling to get rid of the bad laws.
We allow those few who are the loudest bullies to infringe on our speech and religious freedoms. Why? Because we are afraid to be called names like “bigot” or “homophobe.” Standing up for what is right isn’t bigoted or homophobic, it is what we must do to keep those free speech and freedom of worship rights for everyone. But bakeries and wedding chapels are forced to close in the name of forced “diversity” that doesn’t allow the diversity of opposing viewpoints. We allow our supposed leaders to divide us by class and race and say nothing because we fear being labeled “racist” or worse.
Lent isn’t about fear. Lent is about examining our lives and seeing if we are living them in the example and words of Christ. Christ never said to fear. Christ never said to allow others to trample all over you in the name of “diversity” or whatever other label they try and use to cow others into submission. Jesus Christ was born and died to show us the ultimate example of love and sacrifice. The one sinless person in the world who died to take on all our sins. He never had to, but He did, and in a gruesome, painful way.
So, take this time today on Ash Wednesday and think about how you can change over the next 40 days to be more Christ-like. Whether it’s in service to others or by giving up your favorite thing. Take these 40 days and acknowledge your true wealth: your freedoms, and decide TODAY to make sure that others can also enjoy those freedoms… then do something about it.