Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 2: Why All the Fuss Over Ashes?

Our parish celebrated 9 Masses on Ash Wednesday.  The smallest Mass had 200 people probably because it was at 6am.  The church kept filling up as soon as it had emptied.  Phones wouldn’t stop ringing.  (Funny enough, someone asked why there weren’t any Masses AFTER our last Mass at 8:30pm.)  I often wish I could stand outside and ask people why they receive the ashes.  Obligation?  Superstition?  Catholic guilt?  At the end of the Spanish Mass last night before we imposed the ashes, I reminded the people, many of whom I have never seen before, that the imposition of the ashes was not only a reminder of our need for conversion, but by our very presence there to receive them, the mark of the cross of ashes that we would bear on our foreheads had to be a mark of commitment that we would do everything we could to truly return to the Lord during the next 40 days.  If we go to Mass on Ash Wednesday (and not on Sunday) just to receive the ashes and don’t do anything to change our lives during Lent, then we would be better off staying home.  Like on Palm Sunday, many focus so much on the ashes and palms that they fail to see something far more precious that we give out every single day:  Christ’s Body and Blood!  That is what matters:  rediscovering our love for Christ and his love for us in the Eucharist.  The cross of ashes that many of us displayed proudly on our foreheads yesterday should be the ultimate sign of commitment that we long to get closer to the love that was displayed at the Last Supper and on the cross and that we seek to help others discover the beauty of that love.  May we pray for one another as we begin our Lenten journey.