Today we begin the solemn season of Lent. We begin it by going to Mass and receiving on our foreheads the ashes burnt from palms used the previous Palm Sunday. We do this to remind ourselves and acknowledge to the whole world that we are sinners in need of repentance and God’s grace. It also reminds us that because of Original Sin, our bodies are mortal and will return to their previous state after our death, that is, to dust. We must keep this always in mind in order to remain humble and remind ourselves that we should always be working to store up treasures for ourselves in our true home, which is Heaven.
Beginning Lent this way brings us into the mindset that we need in order to apply ourselves to the penances and fasting of this holy and rigorous season. We bring our bodies into submission so as to elevate our hearts and souls toward God and the things of Heaven. We need special graces and discipline to do this, and Ash Wednesday begins this work. Sometimes all we need is a reminder of our sinfulness and human nature before God to serve as the wake up call we need to make the effort to bring ourselves closer to God. And the things we do during Lent are meant to transform and conform us more and more to the likeness of Jesus Christ. But again, we cannot do this or anything without His help. Without Him we are nothing, and Ash Wednesday serves as that reminder. But it also invites us into Lent and into suffering with Christ, which reminds us what we are WITH Him.
Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. I wish all of you a very holy and fruitful Lent and let’s not forget to pray for each other.
A few things:
- Today is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat.
- It is not a holy day of obligation; however, this does not mean you shouldn’t make every effort to attend Mass. Ash Wednesday is an important day in the liturgical year and Mass attendance is strongly encouraged.
- You do not have to be Catholic to receive ashes. Everyone is a sinner and in need of God’s grace and you do not need to be of a certain faith to acknowledge this. This differs from the reception of the Eucharist in that Catholics believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ and that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ. Since the Eucharist is truly Jesus Christ and Christ and His Church are inseparable, to unite yourself with Him, you must be united to His Church.