Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation for us Catholics, many people mark the first day of the Lenten season by receiving ashes. Lent is a 40-day period focused on spiritual purification and repentance. It is a day of fasting for Catholics. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of the distribution of ashes upon the foreheads of Catholics. Those black marks are meant to be crosses. The ashes come from the palms used in the previous year's Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter that marks Jesus's entrance into Jerusalem where he was met with palm branches by believers. It's especially significant, because Jesus was greeted in Jerusalem as a hero and the Messiah by the crowds and he would eventually be put to death. The ashes are meant to remind Christians about human mortality, while also showing the individual's desire for repentance and mourning of their own sins. As the priest or extraordinary minister puts the ashes on the forehead, he or she says "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Catholics are encouraged to wear the ashes, which can be distributed on either their forehead or hand, until the ashes wear off as a public declaration of their faith. More importantly, the ashes are a reminder that we are beginning the holiest of seasons in our Catholic journey. It is a time for preparation as we countdown to the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. Without it, Jesus was just a prophet. But we know and believe, through our faith, that Jesus Christ was truly man and truly God. We know that His grace has saved us and allows us to live eternally with Him in heaven. How do you plan to prepare? I encourage you to focus on things that will improve yourself, your family, your community, and the world at large.