They are two small adverbs. We couple them when a great deal of time has passed. Time that counted, time that has left its mark. We use the words “even now” when a given moment caps a long chain of them. With those two words, we suggest that, although much time has passed and much has changed, “even now” the flow and effect of time congeals in this moment. We can choose to reject or to renew what has come before.
“He was wrongly convicted. He’s been imprisoned for years, but even now you can set right that injustice.” “We’ve been married for years, but even now I can’t help saying a prayer of thanks each day I wake and find you by my side.”
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.
How poignantly, how perfectly the prophet Joel summons us to Lent with those two adverbs:
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 (Jl 2:12).
We think that time draws deep ruts for our paths. We’ve failed for so long. Why should we believe that anything will change? Or, we have been faithful for so long. Why must we begin again, as though nothing has been settled?
Time’s trenches may well be the trail, but they are not the traveler. Yes, we move through time, and we are changed by it. We are the result of all the decisions we have made. Yet to live in time is always to choose a path, to have an intention.
This is why, even now, everything changes when we chose to alter our direction. We may be far from—or near to—our soul’s true home. Even now, everything depends upon whether we change or maintain our bearings.
Ash Wednesday speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human. This is the moment that matters. Even now.