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Martinsville, Indiana 46151
March 6 is Ash Wednesday, the first day in the Christian season of Lent, the six-week period of spiritual preparation culminating in Holy Week and Easter. Over the centuries, penitence has become predominant spiritual attitude during Lent. In that sense, Lent is not unlike the Jewish Ten Days of Penitence, the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays. Similarly, Muslims observe the season of Ramadan with penitential fasting and prayer.
Frederick Buechner wrote that “during Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves,” which includes, of course, one’s relationship to God and others. They also happen to be questions for people who simply want to be better human beings. That got me thinking: what kinds of questions would make up that general query; what does it mean to be myself in relation to God through Christ and to fellow human beings? Here are some possibilities, some of which I’ve borrow from Buechner (See his Wishful Thinking, pp 24-25). You may want come up with a few of your own:
When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like, and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
Have you spent time contemplating your own mortality (one of the purposes of Ash Wednesday), and how would you prepare for it? How would you want to be remembered?
When you reflect on what or who gives meaning to your life, what comes to mind?
(The irony here is that often we don’t ask ourselves this question until we’ve come to terms with the previous one).
Is there any person(s) in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?
Of the things you have said or done in your life recently, what are the ones you would most like to undo? (Those who say they don’t regret anything are either kidding themselves or are sociopaths) What are the ones that make you happiest to remember? (Much more fun)
If you had one last message to leave those you most loved, what would it be in 25 words or less?
I know all this navel-gazing seems a bit morose, but when it comes down to it, we don’t really get to the essence of who we are as persons until we’ve begun to wrestle with some of these questions; and whether you are a careful observer of Lent or not, now is probably as good a time as any to ask them.