When I was little, we lived in a house with a coal furnace. One of the household chores my dad took care of in the winter was to take the ashes and what we called the “clinkers” – that part of the coal that was left after burning – out.
The ash was messy. Dad always tried to contain it in something, but a fine film of ash always seemed to sift out to cover whatever he walked by, despite his best effort.
Ash is like that, and on this Ash Wednesday I’m thinking of how like ash sin is.
Despite our best effort to contain it, sin has a way of leaving a fine film over whatever we pass. If it’s left untouched, that fine film will become thicker, of course, and eventually it will cover over whatever it has settled on.
That’s the problem with sin: left untouched, eventually it will cover over whatever it has settled on – or in – obliterating the original finish.
Sin is often subtle, and might go unnoticed at first. During Lent, our task is to reflect on that fine film of sin in our lives, and what it might eventually obliterate if we allow it to go untouched.
Lent is about paying attention, and noticing what needs to be cleaned up.