Ash Wednesday was attached to Lent as an official introduction and was a name given by Pope Urban in 1099. Depending on the cycle of the moon, Ash Wednesday can be celebrated as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.
The ashes that we received today are an external mark, a reminder of who we are and, what we are meant to become.
It seems that we live in an age of ashes. We have the “soot” that remains behind after so many fires and wars – Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, 9/11, and now we are witnesses to the ruins of Afghanistan and Syria. Despite the marks left by these disasters, we go on. We reconcile and we re-build.
Lent is a season of conversion, of turning, of a returning to a God who is rich in kindness and mercy. The prophet, Joel, tells us to return to God with our whole heart.
Lent is often analogous with fasting and penance. That tends to lean toward the negative side, and I think this would mirror too much negativity in our world. I think our world has enough of that!
One of the most popular Sacred Scripture quotes for Lent is, “Rend you hearts and not your garments.” Let us ponder the first part of that quote – “rend your hearts.” Rather than setting your eyes on sin, shake loose the love that is IN your heart. We need the kind of love that carried Christ to the cross. I mean a love that can turn the other cheek, a love that gives the benefit of the doubt, a love that reaches beyond our safety and goes out to those who are different in race or face. It is a love that exemplifies the virtues described by St. Paul – kind, patient, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not irritable or resentful. It is a love that bears all things and hopes and endures all things.
We have forty days to do the above, and each day gives us another chance at conversion. This conversion is not like our New Year’s resolutions; it is rather a conversion of the heart. Lent offers us forty opportunities to draw closer to Jesus. Forty days for the Father to shower us with mercy and love and healing. So make yourself available to God.
Sister Catherine Higley, OSB, St. Gertrude Monastery, Ridgely, MD
Hungry and You Fed Me – Edited by Deacon Jim Knipper
Naked and You Clothed Me – Edited by Deacon Jim Knipper
Daily Reflections for Lent – Robert Moreau
The Word Among Us – Edited by Leo Zanchettin