On Wednesday I will go to mass. The priest will remind me that lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and alms giving.  And then a lay minister will dip her thumb into small pot of dark ashes moistened with holy water and make the sign of the cross on my forehead.  The accompanying blessing used to be, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.”   This Wednesday, I will most likely hear, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”  While I appreciate the positive note in the latter blessing, I miss the verbal reminder of my mortality. For me, lent has always been about mortality.

LentIt is forty days of remembering that I live in a world of touch and smell, acute pain and profound joy.  And that might be all there is–without Jesus.  Jesus said there is something more, just out of sight yet within reach.  He proclaimed a love that promises a life eternal.  It is a mystery too deep, really, for me to fathom, but I believe it in my bones.  I don’t just feel, I know there is no ending in us.  That spark that makes us human– undetectable by science (human DNA is not all that unique, nor are our talents for tool making, problem solving, and speech)–that spark of humanity is an everlasting flame.  We, the thinking, tasting we, will return to dust, but that other we, the divine spark we, will live forever.  I know this.

That surety is the gift of Easter. So why then lent?  For me, it’s a time to remember who and what I am.  Deep thoughts have a difficult time competing with writing weekly reports, feeding a family, reviewing homework, and balancing a checkbook.  Those ashes on my forehead say stop! Remember you and those you love are mortal. Cherish them.  Look at your life.  The clock’s ticking honey, judged by the standards of eternity are you doing what you ought?

As certain as I am that death holds no evil, lent is a reminder to love more, cherish more, give more.  And those things, for me, make a good lent.