Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday Reflections: Did You Know There's Dirt on Your Forehead?

It's Ash Wednesday. If you're a Catholic, you know what that means. After you receive ashes you'll hear, "Did you know there's dirt on your forehead?" the rest of the day. That's not a bad thing.

Ashes are a reminder that we're called to let go of the things that keep us from God. Let go of hatred, anger and jealousy. Let go of valuing money, cars and other things of this world more than God. Let go of the things that won't matter in our eternal life.

As kids, many of us gave up candy for Lent and spent 40 days dreaming about the chocolate bunny that awaited us on Easter Sunday.

As adults, we focus more on giving up behaviors that keep us from being the children of God. Give up bullying and teasing. Give us gossip and name-calling. Give up greed and violence in all forms.

As kids, we held on tightly to our Easter baskets filled with candy and goodies. Our candy-filled baskets meant the end of our fast from candy.

As adults, we know that we are called to let the Paschal candle burn brightly in our hearts all year. As Christ is the light of the world, we are called to be light to those living in darkness. 

As kids, we dressed in our finest clothing on Easter morning as we headed off to church to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.

As adults, we are called to cast off the heavy cloaks that bind us to the past and to be reborn in Christ. We are called to walk in His light as children of God.

There's nothing wrong with choosing to give up things for Lent, but giving up candy, coffee, TV or Facebook is only a small part of the Lenten journey. We are also called to use prayer, fasting and almsgiving to bring us closer to God.

We are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. In the Catholic faith, these are the Corporal Works of Mercy.

During our Lenten journey, we are called to cover and turn from the desires of this world as we walk toward the light that is Christ.

As kids, we often lamented, "It's not fair" as we dealt with the injustices in our everyday lives. As adults, we are called to feed the souls of those we encounter in our lives. The Spiritual Works of Mercy challenge us to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.

As adults, we are called to remember -- and to teach -- that Easter is about more than bunnies, eggs and candy. It's about the Risen Christ who gave His very life for us.

We are called to remember that our God is a God of hope and to let Him fill us with joy and peace so that we can live our lives in hope.

We are called to choose faith over worry, light over darkness, good over evil, trust over doubt and God's desires over earthly desires.

We are called to be grateful for what we have instead of complaining about what we don't have -- to bring sunshine into the lives of those we encounter.


We are called to let God's eternal love mend our broken hearts and to let Him make us into new creations in the Lord.

We are called to be who God meant us to be -- His sons and daughters who walk always in the light of Christ and who set the world on fire.

We are called to always remember that every day is a new day made by the Lord and to rejoice and be glad in it -- no matter what it brings.

We are called to let the joy of Easter morning burn brightly in our hearts throughout the year. We are called to take His light with us wherever we go, to let His light shine through our words and actions.

So, when someone tells you that you have dirt on your forehead on Ash Wednesday, thank them and tell the person that the ashes are a gift from God. Like the sacraments, the ashes of Ash Wednesday are an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. As you journey with Christ during Lent, let His light shine brightly in your heart and in your life. 

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