Third daily Mass: Bringing to mind Cain and Abel.
Today is Ash Wednesday.
It is a beautiful morning. The sky is clear and crisp, the sun bright. I love seeing the sun, it is getting stronger and that makes me happy. Sometimes winter can become so monotonous that it feels like a grave and I have been in a spiritual/emotional/parental grave for so many years that I have lost so much of myself that I have become someone I do not recognize.
Like so many moms who have had troubled children, are still dealing with troubled children; I became invisible. You feel as if your world can see what you have done wrong; that there must be some mark on your forehead, like the mark God gave Cain. But the mark of Cain was for his protection so that no would harm him. (GENESIS
Chapter 4: 14) Did God do that so that Cain would see the mark and be reminded that there were things he was being called to change? Cain tells God that his punishment was too much to bear, so you wonder if Cain was too angry with God to do any work. An anger that comes when so much has happened in life that you just can’t take it any more.
The ashes we get today remind me of Monday’s first reading the story of Cain and Abel. It makes me think the ashes on our forehead are there for our protection, protecting us from our own negative self-talk/self-thought. But also reminding us that we have work to do. Like the mark of Cain, the Ashes can feel like a huge weight, dragging us down. Just like Cain after he kills his brother; we too try and run and hid from our sin, but sin is always crouching at our door – waiting, mocking us, making us want to hid, to become invisible.
I became invisible to my self, to my husband, to my community. I thought I was a nothing, worthy of nothing. I didn’t care for myself. Gained far too much weight. Stopped caring about how I looked, what I looked like. My answer to myself when I would ask myself why don’t I care was always: “Why should I.” What good was I. I created broken children. I was a social worker who couldn’t heal her own children. It took several Lents, Ash Wednesdays really, when we are all marked as Cain, to begin to look at my life and BEGIN to see what was real in my life; all my life: marriage, family, community. Like Cain I was wondering the world of my life avoiding God. And like Cain I misunderstood what God was asking of me.
The second reading today asks us to be reconciled to God; not that God be reconciled to us but for us to be reconciled with God. Each Ash Wednesday gots me a step closer to reconcile with God. I had thought for so long that God was testing me that I was having trouble seeing the good. It took many Ash Wednesdays of working on my life, calling and world; that this year I feel as the second said: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
This is the Lent I work with God to become me, wholly and soully.