catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 5 :: 2009.02.27 — 2009.03.13


Honoring Ash Wednesday next to tragedy

On a clear day I can see from my office window the planes coming in to Schiphol airport. Today, like most days this month, it was damp, and the windows were covered with some sort of mist making it hard to see much of anything. I wasn’t aware that traffic at Schiphol had stopped for a couple of hours. A news bulletin brought to my attention that I had been sitting at my desk when a plane crashed within view of my window. And once again I was confronted with another tragedy close by.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Today we remember that “we are dust (ashes) and to dust (ashes) we will return.” It is disturbing to place beside this remembering the recent tragedies of my neighborhood: the murder of a prostitute and a plane crash. I would like to picture “returning to dust” as me being old and longing finally to meet God; tragedies would have nothing to do with that.

But a world without tragedies is a picture of the glory and fullness of Easter, something that has not happened yet. And during Lent, we remember that we are still waiting for the world to be made whole. No matter how hard we work or pray, we cannot cause tragedies to disappear. And in Lent, we are given the space to remember and the means to mourn and rage the tragedies and messes that occur around us.

During Lent, the community I am part of fasts from meat and dessert and stops talking during dinner. I am sharing in this not so much because I find it important to give these things up, but because I want to participate more in the world that is close by me. And I am choosing to spend more time with the prophetic book of Jeremiah and his sorrow over what was going on around him. In this way, I have chosen not to give up something for Lent but instead to focus more on being aware of the world around me.

I pray that God will open my eyes. And my heart.

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