...but the Eucharist will!
A little backstory: This morning I woke up bright and early to embrace the beginning of the Lenten season. I walked over to the church where the 6:45am Mass was going on and wandered in during Holy Communion. There was no music because most of the people had to go to work, but there was a solemn silence as people slowly went up to receive the Lord. Now the ashes were going to be distributed at the end of Mass, so everyone kept their seat. Obviously, not a soul left early. The priest said the prayer and blessing over the ashes and then invited the people up to receive the ashes...BOOM! Like shot out of a cannon people bolted from their pews as if the priest were handing out winning lottery tickets. Now I've been a priest for almost 13 years and have been ministering on Ash Wednesday since I was a teenager so I wasn't surprised, but the thought that immediately entered my mind was: "Why don't people come to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with the same urgency that they come to get the ashes on Ash Wednesday?"
I know that if you're reading this that I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I told the people in the evening Mass the utterly shocking statement that those ashes won't get us into heaven, but the Bread of Eternal Life will. And we received Him today and we receive Him every Sunday and we can receive Him every day if we wish. Yes, the ashes are important. Yes, the ashes remind us that we have work to do during this Lent. Yes, the ashes are a sign of our mortality, but more importantly of the greatness and the majesty of our God. We are dust....but he loves us anyways! We are sinners...but he forgives us anyways! We are so blessed to begin this joyful season of Lent. May we concentrate on what is truly important during these 40 days which is Christ crucified who gives himself to us over and over again every time we come to church and receive the greatest treasure he entrusted to us: his Body and Blood!
(Side note: These daily meditations will be updated daily through Easter Sunday. Have a blessed Lent!)