Saturday, February 17, 2007
Last year on Palm Sunday we all picked up palm branches and waved them (well, held them at least!), as we welcomed the Lord singing "Hosanna! to the Son of David". Those branches represented our desire to be united with Jesus, to receive him into our hearts and into our homes, to be his followers in the midst of the world.
We know that in Jerusalem two thousand years ago those shouts of welcome and joyful expectation were soon to change. The voices would be distorted into a clamour for him to be crucified. We can marvel at how fickle the people of the time were, how easily they let themselves be influenced by the subtle insinuations of a few powerful figures.
But with Lent round the corner we might ask ourselves what has happened to our enthusiasm? How have we changed since last Palm Sunday? In our parish we carefully collect all the palms that are left over and we store them in the crypt of the Church. This weekend we take them out and burn them in a special brazier then, using a pestle and mortar, we grind down the charred remains to make the ash for distribution on Ash Wednesday.
Our ash is blacker than that produced at ultra-high temperatures in industrial kilns and it is quite coarse. It is also an eloquent expression of the way in which our good intentions can so easily turn to ash and the need for us to begin again in Lent. I find that it is best to give some thought to Lenten Resolutions in the days before Ash Wednesday because if I leave it until the last minute I usually just rely on the typical fall-backs. Last year a priest friend of mine had a very effective resolution: not to check his emails until after breakfast. By keeping the computer off until later he found he had more time to focus on God in the morning. What will yours be?