A reflection given on Ash Wednesday to the nuns of the community of the Abbey of St. Walburga, by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB.
Ash Wednesday is one of the holiest days of the year because that’s the day when we openly acknowledge the fact that we need to be converted, that our lives need to change, and we do it as a Church. Ash Wednesday is the one day of the year when even non-Catholics go to Catholic churches to get ashes. There is a sense in mankind of needing, of yearning for some type of reconciliation.
Every Wednesday, we pray in the Divine Office Psalm 78, where it says, “… yet still they sinned against Him, they defied the Most High in the desert; in their heart they put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.” They put God to the test because they demanded the food they craved. They didn’t ask for the food they needed, instead they demanded what they thought they needed. And yet we know that it isn’t always true that we know what we need. Today is a day when we can remember that what God really wants is for us to have faith in Him and to trust Him. God longs to be in our life. The whole aim of our life, everything we do should be directed towards union with God.
We can ask ourselves: what are the things we demand of God rather than ask of God? And also, what are the things we demand of each other? Do we really think that brings about holiness? I read in an article that unity requires a turning back, but if we turn back we have to let go of something we’re hanging onto that doesn’t allow us to take hold of the whole. Those are the things I like to think of. What can I do for the whole to make it better? What can I do for my sisters? What in me can change, be made straight?
Did you ever hear your mother say, “Straighten up!”? Sin is crooked. Sin has bent us in the wrong way and it’s painful, when you’ve been bent one way for a long time, to stand up straight. Lent is going to hurt as we straighten up. Fr. Barron, says that adoration is the kiss of God because we are doing our best to straighten up to reach Him. It’s a reaching up and God bending down. How important is that to remember!
I was also remembering Zaccheus who climbed down to meet the Lord. He said, “If I’ve done anything wrong, I’ll pay it 4 times over back.” We have 40 days to do this. Let us climb down to meet the Lord. When you see the ashes, see all the things that need to change. But remember it’s in the sign of the Cross, it’s already recovered, we just have to ask for it.