Thursday after Ash Wednesday

by Liz Hill

he Old Testament readings seem to set up a clear dichotomy between “the righteous” and “the wicked.” Those who obey the commandments will live, and those who do not will perish. It’s enough to make anyone squirm. We all know that we have not obeyed.

The attitude that clearly and rigidly demarcates “good” and “evil,” “us” and “them,” has caused a lot of trouble, individually and collectively. But there are the words in Holy Writ. What are we to do? The Gospel provides a little direction but more confusion.

If we try to save our life, we will lose it, and if we lose it we will save it. Is gaining the world really incompatible with preserving one’s true self? Why or why not? What is the “cross” that Christ’s followers must take up? What is this “true self,” or, as the 1611 translation puts it, one’s “own soul”?

It seems to me that these questions have many answers, or possibly none at all. They are not the focus of this passage, or of Lent. The main words are “follow” and “Christ.” We do not, cannot, suppress our fears, doubts and questions. We can offer them up to the Lord.

artwork for Ash Wednesday and days following