On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I'm reminded of the well-known words that Job spoke to God:
"I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6, NRSV).Job's experience is typical - when God reveals himself to a person, a crisis inevitably results. Why? Because to be shown God in the fullness of his goodness and grace is to come to the crisis of decision - will we embrace the revelation and be transformed (as was Job), or will we turn away in self-imposed ignorance?
In this season of Lent - a time of reflection leading up to Easter Sunday - may we receive with open and tender hearts God's revelation to us of himself.
Of course, that revelation comes not merely as a book, a set of doctrines, or a theological treatise. Rather it comes to us as a living person - the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. Indeed, in the person of Jesus, God is revealed to be who he truly is - the One who is full of grace and truth. Note Jesus' words recorded by John:
"If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:7-9).God, in the person of his Son has come to us. The stunning miracle of incarnation occurred (and continues). Jesus lived, died, was resurrected, ascended to heaven and now sends the Holy Spirit to humanity, awaiting his bodily return to earth. The revelation has come and continues to come in and through him, the Word of God.
During this season leading up to Easter, may we receive anew this revelation. And may the crisis that ensues be one that truly transforms us. And may we, having been transformed, be faithful messengers of this revelation and transformation. May we co-minister with the Holy Spirit so that, by God's grace, others may see what we see and be transformed as well.
Let us conclude with an ancient Ash Wednesday prayer from Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397):
O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen