As Biden was speaking, Kay Burley, one of the British news commentators asked, “What’s happened to his head? I’m sure that’s what everybody’s asking at home… It looks like he’s walked into a door.”
Biden had not long before returned from Vancouver and the Winter Olympics. So one of the other commentators surmised that perhaps the Vice-President had slipped on some ice and suffered a bruise on his forehead. It took a while before the reporters were clued in to the Catholic practice of having ashes placed on one’s forehead to mark the beginning of Lent.
When I place the ashes on your foreheads I always intend to trace them in the clear sign of a Cross. They don’t always turn out that way. Sometimes they look like a smudge or a thumbprint. Sometimes they look like an “X." Other times it looks like I’ve given you a uni-brow. I suppose that, too, sometimes when I am done it might look like you have a bruise on your forehead from walking into a door. Sorry about that. Ashes are messy and hard to work with.
Sin is messy and hard to work with too. It deceives us, blinds us, confuses us, corrupts us, seduces us, makes us ugly, burdens us, demeans us, weakens us, and fatally wounds us. It must be taken seriously. That means turning to God seriously.
Thomas à Kempis wrote, “What good is it to live long when we improve so little? A long life does not always improve us; in fact, it often adds to our problems.”
Life is long and difficult and problems do seem to multiply. A good Lent will make things better. It will make us better. God promises.
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
-- Joel 2:12-13
See you on Ash Wednesday -- next week, February 18.