Where is Your Heart on this Ash Wednesday?

By Sr. Susan Hutchens, OSB

Today is Ash Wednesday – the day we begin the liturgical season of Lent. 40 days of preparation for the ultimate gift of God – resurrected life at Easter! Lent is a time of looking within ourselves, of contemplation, of asking for forgiveness, of setting our sights and hearts and actions on improving our lives.  It isn’t an easy season of outward joy and pretty colored lights and wrapped packages and heart-moving songs like those of Advent.  It is a season of cactus.  

Today the prickly cactus appeared as the décor in the chapel.  I never much liked cactus – their spikes aren’t exactly beautiful, they hurt if touched in the slightest way, and I’ve had very little luck ever keeping them alive.  I probably try to care for them too much, when they would rather just be left alone.
But for some reason they are a good symbol for this season of Lent.

Cacti are definitely not a symbol like other seasonal flowers – poinsettias at Christmas, or lilies at Easter.  Cacti are a sign of all that grows even in the dryness.  Sometimes we are like those cacti.  We aren’t the most beautiful of living creatures, we hurt if we are touched even slightly in the wrong way sometimes, and sometimes we too just want to be left alone.

But we can’t be. God just won’t let us.  After all, we belong to God before anything else, because God gave us life. And like St. Augustine, we know in the deepest recesses of our being, even when we try not to acknowledge it sometimes, that “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

So I ask myself: Where is my heart today?  Where might it be in forty days? Will it be with Jesus in the upper room on Holy Thursday? With Mary at the foot of the cross on Good Friday? With the women keeping vigil at the tomb on Holy Saturday? With Mary Magdalene and Peter at the empty tomb on Easter morning and with the apostles at Emmaus on Easter evening? I do hope so.  And you – where is your heart today? Where might it be at the end of Lent?

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