By: Father Richard Veras ASH WEDNESDAY
When I was a young priest, I dreaded Ash Wednesday. I experienced myself as a marked man. I couldn’t step outside the rectory or the Church without being asked/accosted for ashes. After each Mass or service, it seemed that just as I had washed my thumb, somebody would stick their head into the sacristy with that plaintive smile that always means the same thing on Ash Wednesday.
HOWEVER, WITH the passing years and passing ashes, I have grown to love this day..not despite, but because of so many of my brother and sister Catholics who return to the Church on this day with such a mysterious but real desire to receive “their” ashes.
What an amazing witness it is, what amazing witnesses they are, to the fact that at its core, Christianity is a belonging to Christ, who has chosen us and offers his mercy to us.
And it is a very public witness! How many of their friends might needle them for those ashes, or even ask them why they got ashes if they rarely or never go to Church. I would venture to guess it might be hard for them to explain.. and thus they, and their ashes, witness to the deep mystery of Christ among us.
THE ASHES TELL THE WORLD THAT WE ARE SINNERS. BUT THEY ARE IN THE SIGN OF THE CROSS..AND SO WE ARE SINNERS WHO HAVE HOPE.
On Ash Wednesday, let us thank God for, and pray for, all of our brothers and sisters who witness to us that this hope does not die.
When the priest makes the cross with the ashes on the forehead of the person he says:
“REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST, AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN”
DURING LENT, let us spend the gift of time seeking the wisdom of heart taught by self-sacrifice, so that, dead to sin, we may rise to new life in Christ, in who death has died.
REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL. (Mk 1:15)