Ashes to ashes? Kind of dark? Kind of depressing? Remember, man — you who purposely forget because you are just so inept at the spiritual life — remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Remember!!!
I mean, I kinda feel bad… except…
There’s a draw for people to come to church on a weekday… But people do come. Why’s that? Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. But people come. No one shows up so as to get beaten down, get depressed, and despair, be hopeless. No. So…
Ash Wednesday is about the reality of hope: Here we are, with all of us weakened by original sin, even falling into sin, and we’re all going to die in punishment for original sin and whatever of our own rubbish, and, without redemption, without grace, we would all of us be going to hell, forever and ever and ever, never getting out. We are now just a heap of organized ashes.
What we’re doing in having ashes mashed into our heads, absolutely recognizing just how bad things are, is this: despite how bad things are we have hope in Jesus who underwent much more how bad things are, Himself taking our place, Innocent for the guilty, to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Apparently dark and hopeless?
- There was a total solar eclipse (the first night and day of the Sacred Triduum)
- Judas betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide
- Peter denied Jesus three times
- All eleven remaining Apostles ran away, John returning, but…
- The very Son of the Living God being tortured to death in front of His dear Mother
The point is this at the beginning of Lent: Despite the absolute worst going on, Jesus brings life and light, bringing us to great friendship with Himself so that, being formed to be members of the Body of Christ by the fiery Holy Spirit, Jesus might then have the great, great joy in presenting us as a gift to our Heavenly Father.
After the Resurrection, Jesus calls us friends, a creative act on His part. And so we are. And Lent is a preparation for this flourishing of this friendship. We have Confession, Adoration, Holy Mass, Stations of the Cross, Rosary…
Saint Paul uses violent language about this preparation:
- “Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
- “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always consigned to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)
Our very ineptitude with fasting, almsgiving, prayer, with all the frustration, temptations, distractions… all that helps us to turn to Jesus to depend not on ourselves but on Him, so that’s it’s His grace, His goodness and kindness, His Truth. And all that learning to depend on Jesus is a joyful experience, a time of growing in friendship with Him, thus becoming the littlest children of our Heavenly Father.