Well, in case you were uncertain as to the relentless pace of time, allow me to be the first to remind you: Lent begins this week.
I know. I can’t believe it either. It feels like literally two days ago that we were ringing in 2018.
But yep – Ash Wednesday is here. And I’m personally blaming it on Apple and their freaking High Sierra Update that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same exact day.
Talk about bad timing.
America’s sweetheart holiday devoted to gorging on chocolate and strawberries, surreptitiously falling on a day of fasting and abstinence.
I think it’s Apple’s sneaky way of trying to undercut Amazon’s recent takeover of Whole Foods.
But truthfully, this Lenten season is coming not a minute too soon.
This weekend was a mess of rain and humidity and grey skies here in Manhattan. Which admittedly, has been mirroring my spirit these last few weeks. Maybe you could tell – I hope not.
But last night at Mass, the “penny dropped” as my late acting teacher would say.
Sitting there, listening to the first reading about the man with leprosy, I realized that there were tears rolling down my cheek, and a lump had taken residence in my throat.
“The one who bears the sore of leprosy…shall cry out, “Unclean, unclean!”…He shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” — LV 13: 44-46
Listening to that, I came to the stark realization, that is me.
That is the lie I have been believing and living with: Living at arm’s length, because I do not believe I am worth loving.
I try so hard to put on a brave face and do and say the right thing, but when it comes right down to it, I still carry my brokenness, leftover from the anorexia in my past.
Listening to that reading, it was as though someone had taken the feelings I couldn’t put into words, and proclaimed them from the pulpit for all to hear.
Recovery is journey, ever evolving. And there are times when you’re on mountain tops and times when you’re hanging on by your fingernails. And for those with anorexia in their past, you can attest that the largest and most difficult aspect of recovery is not the weight. It’s not the food. Not the exercise, or the body image – although that is definitely a bear too. But it is the self worth. It is believing that you are worth love. And that is what has flared up here recently.
This story does not end here, though.
Last night, I dried my tears and was on high alert for the rest of Mass, knowing that God was going to “bring it home” for me one way or another. And the Father never fails.
Fast forward to the Gospel.
“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.” — MK 1:40
There’s so much talk about self-denial and penance and “giving up” this or that for Lent. And, yes, those things are fair and true.
But to me, Lent is about so much more than that. And frankly, so starkly different than the focus on penance and abstinence.
To me, Lent is one giant love letter. From Jesus to you and me.
It all simply comes down to one fact…what are we actually preparing for?
We’re preparing our hearts for the incredible offering of love that Jesus made on the Cross.
These 40 days leading up to it, are Jesus showing us the degree to which He loves us.
A message that, I, for one, desperately need to hear right now. And in return, it is an opportunity to reflect on, and actively participate in that love.
So leave it to God to use a message about freaking leprosy to romance my heart and express the love that He so longs to give to me, if only I ask for it.
God knew that I needed to hear it. And hand delivered it just in time for Valentine’s Day, no less.
So maybe it’s not such a big conspiracy that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. And in fact, the more I think about it, the more sense it actually makes.
The greatest “grand gesture” of love in the history of the world, contrary to popular belief, was not when John Cusack raised up the boombox in Say Anything…
…but rather, when Jesus stretched out His arms for you and me.
That’s a Valentine.
That’s Jesus saying, “be made clean.”
I need to show Jesus my brokenness – show Him my wounds – and let Him touch them. Let Him cradle my heart in His hands and say, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
He can’t heal what I won’t give to Him.
This Lent, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
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