Lent is upon us once again- didn’t we just finish celebrating Christmas? In any case, here we are in a liturgical season when, as an entire Church, we are called to focus on prayer, fasting and alms-giving (i.e. donations to the poor). This is a time of year that reminds us that we are not just individuals who come together for Sunday Mass but a community, bonded together by the Holy Spirit, called to love, support one another and celebrate Christ’s love for all creation.
“Remember that dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return!” says the priest when placing ashes on our foreheads.
But why begin this season with ashes? Not only are ashes messy but so somber; a reminder of death that no one wants. But that is exactly the point! Today we are called to remember a basic reality, which we all know and push to the back of our minds, namely that some day will be our last on this earth. Each of us has a date with death- the world went along very well before we were born and will continue spinning after we leave. This reality of a personal end- at least for our time on earth- can draw one of two responses from us. The first, adopted by many in modern American society, is nihilism; since we will die someday ‘eat, drink and be merry’ filling your days with pleasure, ‘new experiences’ and ‘’entertainment’ with no real principles or an appreciation of life’s value. Sadly many choose this path, resulting not in happiness but, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, ‘silent desperation’, continually trying to fill up a soul’s void with transitory things. The second response, one which Christians should have, is neither nihilist nor morbid but a realization that it is important to use our limited time for our own continuing conversion, for loving others and using our talents to make the world more a reflection of God’s Kingdom. Thus Ash Wednesday’s message is not of ‘doom and gloom’ but one which asks us how we are using this gift of life.
Life is a precious gift of God and Mission Doctors work in Third World countries to bring life to the sick. Please support them by prayer and donations. God bless you with a wonderful Lent!