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Consumed, gone now, no longer what was. Were you a candle? palm branch? charred body? Ashes speak of loss - a letting go of one's form and being consumed - maybe that is the way to become oneself.

It is hard to think of Lent "starting" when ashes symbolize an end, "the remains."  Maybe ashes are a challenge like Ezekiel's vision of the field of dry bones. In forty days there is time to call on the lOrd to breathe life into these remains, to reform the dust of the earth, into a new creation.

Yet it is not just about calling on the Lord; it is gathering one's own ash, not in a jar of death, but in a gesture of belief in new life. It is an admission, a hope: I am gone now, no longer what I was, but now I am alive in you.

Ashes: in a smudged sign of the cross on my forehead. I thank you that it is not a permanent brand, for I am fearful in this calling of discipleship. For me the forehead is a good reminder of my need to reflect on this mutual choice of following you.  Lead me that I may walk with you into new life.

~ Bonnie Kearney, RSCJ

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