Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Ash Wednesday

Today’s Ash Wednesday reflection suggests that our hearts can extend our reach throughout the world as compassionate ambassadors of Christ.

Pray
Lent begins in irony. The Ash Wednesday Gospel entreats us to be subtle about our prayer and fasting. These spiritual practices should be done in solitude, in a locked room. No showy appearances or long faces allowed. But instead we head for church, get in line and receive a black, sooty imprint of the cross upon our foreheads. Then we walk out into the world for all to see. It’s a sign that raises the stakes on the whole season, so the Gospel suggests that we start by checking our motives. If people are staring, they better be seeing Jesus and not us. A cross on my forehead means I’m marked as a Christian, an ambassador of Christ, as Paul puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Looking for Christ’s ambassador this Lent? She’s right over there, with the cross on her head. You can tell by the way she loves the poor. You can tell by the way he speaks out against injustice. You can tell by the way she welcomes and listens. You can tell by his joy. Even after the ashes come off at sundown, the sign should remain.

In your prayer this week, consider, who is watching you this Lent? Who is urgently seeking to meet Christ’s ambassador? How might you extend Jesus’ welcome?

Fast
But you may still go to your inner room to fast and pray. Lent is about an interior journey as well as an outward one. As Lent begins, ask Jesus to gently reveal to you what you must give up in order to be the disciple he seeks. What is getting in the way, causing you to stumble? What is taking up too much time and space, leaving less room for the work of the Gospel? These are the things to give up this Lent.

Learn
An ambassador lives in a foreign place, offering a piece of home to the compatriot, extending welcome in the name of a distant host. Through Operation Rice Bowl you will have the chance to visit several countries this Lent, with an eye toward how Christ is inviting you to be his ambassador, the representative of his love, his solidarity and his compassion. In Egypt the owner of a small business will invite you to explore the dignity of work and the rights of workers. A Filipino farmer will help you to experience the call to opt for the poor. In Tanzania, a young woman orphaned by AIDS will teach you about the dignity of the human person. A Honduran dairyman amplifies the call to tend God’s creation. A teacher in Ghana will illustrate the give and take of building community through participation. And finally, a family in Colorado Springs will bring home the idea that solidarity can occur both nearby and far away.

Give
By now you may have managed to assemble your Rice Bowl and place it in a spot where it will catch your eye throughout Lent. Six weeks stretch before you. How will you fill the little cardboard box? How will you ensure that it isn’t overlooked? Now’s a great time to strategize with family or friends, perhaps setting a goal for how much each would like to contribute by Easter. Visit Operation Rice Bowl’s Interactive Map to learn about CRS programming supported by your contributions. Create a list of incentives and ideas for making contributions. A great start might be giving the house a thorough sorting and cleaning. Put all the loose change you find in your Rice Bowl. Haul off unneeded items and extra shoes and clothing to the local St. Vincent de Paul Society. Meanwhile, we’ll give you more ideas for ways to contribute with each weekly e-mail or refer to your Home Calendar Guide. And remember, by the end of Lent, 25 percent of your Operation Rice Bowl contributions will stay in your own diocese to meet needs close to home, while the rest will travel the world addressing hunger across the globe.

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