Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. There are 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter. The 40 days signify the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning His public ministry. The Ashes come from the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palms Sunday. Early Christians declared their sinfulness and their desire for God’s forgiveness to their community by wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes as a symbol of their unworthiness. Today we observe Ash Wednesday by having the mark of the cross placed on our foreheads with ashes. The ashes are a symbol of our immortality and the cross reminds us that we belong to Christ who died for all of Mankind on the cross. The ashes we receive is a reminder for us to live a good life because life is short and all of our lives must come to an end, but through Christ we are “invited to eternal life”, therefore we should show God our appreciation for this great gift that He has given to us and live our life the way our Father intended.
When the cross is placed on one’s forehead the priest (or minister) will say “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”, or “Remember… you are dust and to dust you will return”. Because the most important part of our Being is our Soul, when we are told to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” we are instructed to live in constant preparation and reminded that our journey does not end with death, but rather continues in our after life when we rejoin our Father in Heaven.
Although we tend to focus on the things we can improve and things we can do if we are not already doing them, it is also a time of reflection and meditation in our busy lives. If we have been trying to live in accordance with God’s plans for us, then we are in need of this time to renew our strength. Deacon Jesse once compared us to candles. We are like candles that give off light to others. He went on to say that many times in doing this, we tend to dwindle and burn out. So our Lenten Journey is not only about making sure that we purge sin from our lives in an attempt to either mend our relationship with God or to change our ways in an attempt to bring us even closer to Him, but a time of renewal. An opportunity to stop and reflect and become renewed once more with the love and joy that God has for us and to realize that although we might do a lot in His name, it will never compare to what He has done for us. And with this newly restored sense of energy and enthusiasm we can go forth and do His work for as long as we are called upon to do so.