Straddling Two Worlds
Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
I sit in the dimly lit chapel on this early Ash Wednesday morning, reflecting on what the day means. As hospital staff wander in, I carefully place a cross of ashes on the foreheads of those who enter, and I say the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Amen.”
For those who haven’t practiced Lent, my actions probably seem a bit odd. The Lenten season is really about reflection, and the ashes are a tangible way to begin the journey of reflecting. It’s a time to ponder what the Forty Day journey to Easter really represents. To contemplate what it means to be a living human being who straddles a world where we were once dust and will be once again.
As a chaplain in a Catholic hospital I find myself sitting between two crosses, literally and figuratively. One cross hangs behind the altar with the crucified Jesus upon it to represent the time before the resurrection. The other, in the back of the chapel, is ornate and without Jesus' body, representing the resurrected Christ.
If Lent is the time of straddling those two worlds, I find that my life is much the same. There is the desire that my heart and life reflect the Risen Christ. The longing to shed the sinful habits that can make me feel separated from God.
I think of parts of Psalm 51 that reassure me of God’s mercy:
“Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
Wash me completely c