Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day collides with Ash Wednesday. On a day traditionally marked with flowers and candy, this year a more powerful sign of love is being offered, a cross on the forehead from the ashes of burnt palm branches. Ash Wednesday is this week. The ashes we will receive on our forehead, recalls the cross we first received at baptism and also reminds that our earthly journey ends in death. The cross declares we belong to God. The ashes of the Palms recall the promise of the paschal mystery, as we die with Jesus, we will also rise with Jesus. Marked with these ashes, we begin our Lenten journey.
Lent gives us an opportunity to look beyond ourselves as we enter the ancient practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Through these practices may we discover our giftedness, take time to listen to God speak in our hearts, to be more attentive to the wonders around us, and praise God with all our being.
This is a time to ask how is my discipleship? A time to acknowledge how in the past year I was Christ to another and to see where I need improvement. What are the roadblocks and detours that keep me from a being faithful disciple? What is the discipline, practice, I need to develop to live as a more consistent disciple?What is it that I need to leave behind? Perhaps it is turning away from a habit which is not life giving --- judging, excluding, gossip, poor self-esteem, excess consumption of food and beverage, and/or pornography. It is also a time of cultivating a new habit --- being more intentional about daily prayer, practicing patience, being more understanding, living a life of gratitude, exercising, and/or doing weekly or daily action of mercy.
Pat Marrin writes. “Our fasting will keep us fit and lean, free of the illusions or false desires that weigh us down and slow our progress. Our almsgiving will enable us to travel light on the road of self-surrender, which alone promises genuine fulfillment. Our prayer shapes us in the way of God, opening us to God’s will.
We have 40 days and nights to journey with Jesus to Holy Week, where he will complete his mission on the cross and in the tomb. As he emerges triumphant on Easter Sunday, we will join Christ for 50 days of celebration, recalling our mission in his name, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit. May we use the days of Lent wisely, to listen to the same Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness. The God of Jesus is eager to teach us who we really are.” (February 2015, Celebration, p.24, The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, Kansas City, MO.)
Have a joy filled Mardi Gras and a Blessed beginning of Lent.