Ash Wednesday

A Salvatorian priest attends an important meeting in Washington, D.C. He drives from Milwaukee, attends the meetings, and arrives back home. Upon his return, he’s asked, “Where’s the car?” He flew back. True story.

That’s what Lent is all about. Lent is all about the three “F” words. Forgotten, forgiving, and forgiven. I saved the hardest “F” word for last. Because that’s what Lent’s all about in the stretched arms of the One on a cross. But it’s also the best “F” word.

With the imposition of ashes, the traditional prayer begins with “remember.” Just in case we forgot that to the dust, we shall return. I don’t think anyone living in a retirement home forgets that.

Lest we do forget sometimes, Lent begins with us and culminates by God making an earthly wooden object meant for death and destruction, the sure, divine symbol of our redemption. God’s forgiving word? That’s the second “F” word.

That cross is now worn around how many necks and dangles at the end of countless rosaries. We begin each Mass focusing on ourselves in erasing those pesky small sins, and the rest of the Mass steeped in the hopes and promises of God living and breathing within and among us.

Our toughest, best, and last “F” word? Forgiven. Past tense. We know it applies to those who have hurt us in whatever way. “I forgive you,” we either say to the person or quietly say it to ourselves. That’s the best part. The hardest part is forgiving ourselves. Scripture talks about the enemy as though it’s something or someone outside ourselves. But as the saying goes, “We are our own worst…”

Can we find and experience forgiveness for the sins of our lives – be they huge or minor? Can we honestly first empty ourselves and then allow the grace of God to fill in all those cracks and crevices in our lives? That’s Lent. So go ahead and think of yourselves in Lent’s early weeks, but then slowly and willingly immerse yourself in the fulfillment of the crucified Jesus, who is then known to us as the Christ at Easter. I say “immerse” because we all die to ourselves and then rise because of Him.

I hope this holy season, this year’s Lent, is especially spiritually helpful to all of us in both our bodies and minds.

However, to this very day, somewhere hidden in Washington, D.C. is an abandoned car belonging to the Salvatorians. And we want it back.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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