The ashes were all around me at Mass this morning, and yet I found myself drawn to a different word in the liturgy.
It was hidden in plain sight, in the words of Psalm 51, the responsorial psalm: Joy.
‘Give me back the joy of your salvation,’ we prayed, ‘and a willing spirit sustain in me.’
We do tend to focus on the flip-side of joy—our sinfulness—during this season of Lent. And rightly so: Our hearts get dirty as we live our lives. They start to wander from their Source…and then we wonder: ‘Why is it that my heart so often seems to fail?’ It fails to love. Fails to act. Fails to forgive. Fails to become all that God calls it—calls me—to be.
But there is more than sinfulness to contemplate, as we begin this holy season of Lent. There is also the promise of joy.
Perhaps it was something like this very promise that drew Jesus into the desert for 40 days, before he began his public ministry. Jesus ‘did not know sin’, as St. Paul reminds us. And yet, the Master found something fruitful in an extended time of prayer and self-denial. He grew stronger in his knowledge and conviction of what God was calling him to be.
So it might be worthwhile to ask, ‘What can I learn from the example of Jesus this Lent?’ How am I being called to experience joy—the joy that comes from aligning my life to the Father’s will?
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.