Ash Wednesday

Every year during Lent I use one of Edward Hays’ devotional books. Hays is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Kansas City and his Lenten books are not typical ones. The book I’m using this year is The Ascent of the Mountain of God. He uses the image of scaling a mountain to get to Mount Easter. Today he writes the following reflection:

“On this Ash Wednesday, reflect on an experience from the life of former President Jimmy Carter. He had applied to enter a nuclear submarine program under Admiral Hyman Rickover, who then interviewed him for the position. At the end of the interview Admiral Rickover asked, ‘How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?’ “

“Carter answered, ‘Sir, I stood 59 in a class of 820,’ waiting to be congratulated. Instead he was asked, ‘Did you do your best?’ Carter began to reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but recalled that he could have learned more and so answered, ‘”No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’ Rickover looked at Carter for a long time in silence and then asked one final question, which Carter said he never forgot nor was he able to answer – ‘Why not?’ “

“Ask yourself if it is your intention today to enter into this Lenten season with a desire to do your best to make this truly an ascent to greatness and holiness. Ask yourself if you seek to be engaged during these forty holy days with such a passionate commitment that it will become the best Lent of your entire life. If that is not your intention, then ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ “

So this Lent, my intention is to scale this mountain. As Hays writes, “This manual for holy mountain climbing provides tools, allies and insights that will turn the challenge into an adventure to enhance the joy of the journey.” I’m ready to begin.

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