Ashen Grim-faced Christians
Today, Ash Wednesday, in past centuries repentant sinners guilty of serious public sins and scandal were marked with the sign of an ashen cross as they began their forty harsh days of public penance. If you don’t fall into that category, Lent can be a season of spiritual renewal of prayer and works of charity. Another choice is forty days of preparation for Easter. Regardless which you choose, across it likely will fall the dark shadow of the cross of ascetic, self-inflicted denials of bygone gloomy Lenten days. This old negative spirit still influences how Christians spend Lent, even those who no longer attend church.
If you choose a Lent of spiritual rejuvenation of your prayer and acts of charity, then engage in them daily with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. If your choice is forty days of Easter training, then daily deepen your belief in the resurrection by practicing joyfulness and cheerful playfulness—especially dealing with evil.
The following is a true story, a Lenten parable for confronting evil. Leo Alard became the first Hispanic Episcopal bishop in the United States. In the 1960’s he was a young priest and pastor of a racially integrated parish in Chattahoochee, Florida. The local Ku Klux Klan detested this racially mixed church and one night the white-hooded Klan’s men erected a fiery cross on the church lawn. Inside the church, its youth group was meeting with Father Alard whose reaction to the racist burning cross was not with prayer—but play. In prophetic playfulness he led his youth group outside to roast marshmallows at the flaming cross!
Lent leads to Easter Sunday, the joyous festival of Jesus being raised from the dead, and also that same triumph for us, his disciples. Yet life after death for many, if not most, is only a wish, a hesitating hope, instead of a core religious belief. Easter fuses with joyfulness for those convinced death cannot rob them of life and so say, “I am, I shall be and I shall continue to be!” Those who profess this as their core Easter belief live joyous lives of impulsive cheerfulness and undefeatable delight.
If heaven sent a drone flying over the world to send back pictures of true believing Christians, it would relay back few images! Become a Credo Christian, a Believer Christian, and by smiling cheerfulness and optimism in a personal Easter have your daily life transformed into an enduring “Merry Easter.”