“We don’t take ashes on because we want to be marked as holy. We want to remind one another that we are a community of sinners,” said Rose Berger, senior associate editor of Sojourners magazine. “We want to remind ourselves how to return to our true calling.”
Benedictine sister Joan Chittister had a nice column on Lent in Huffington Post last week. Here’s an excerpt:
The scripture for the opening of Lent, Joel 2:12-18, takes us back to a time of great danger in Israel. The land has been ravaged by locusts, the crops are failing. The very life of the population is in question. The prophet Joel, convinced that the people have brought the disaster upon themselves by virtue of their unfaithfulness, summons the House of Israel to repent its ways. But, interestingly enough, he does not call them to attend penance services in the synagogue. He does not require them to make animal sacrifices in the temple. He does not talk about public displays of remorse, the time-honored tearing of garments to demonstrate grief. No, Joel says instead, “Rend your hearts and not your clothing.”
Lent is a call to weep for what we could have been and are not. Lent is the grace to grieve for what we should have done and did not. Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now.