Today’s readings remind us of the importance of this season of Lent which begins today with our celebration of Ash Wednesday. The prophet Joel calls us to repentance through: “Fasting, mourning and weeping.” He tells us, “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord.” Like our first reading, the gospel reminds us of the most important virtues of this season: “almsgiving, prayer and fasting.” It reminds us that our Lenten observance must be carried out with humility.
Wearing ash is a sign of shame of sin and a sign of repentance. Though, the ash we are going to receive today is a symbol of death, it strengthens our hope of rising with Christ. Hence, Timothy reminds us that: “If we die with Christ, we will also rise with him”.
Today, we shall freely receive the ash made from the palms of the last year’s Palm Sunday. It is a symbol of our voluntary decision and willingness to openly walk and suffer with Christ this season. To freely be an example to this fallen world we live in. It also reminds us that life passes away on Earth. Hence, we are reminded of our mortality through the words: “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
The Lenten season is best observed by regularly attending liturgical gatherings like Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and retreats. Lenten observance also involves taking good advantage of the sacraments especially, the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. It involves moments of deep reflections on the mystery of our salvation. Of course, we must not forget that this season provides us a great opportunity to carry out both spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Today we come together to gather ourselves up from the dust of humanity, to prepare ourselves to follow the one who saved us. To say to the world that we are Christian. We mark our faces with ash, not in praise of what we are, but as a sign of accepting the responsibility of our sinful nature. As we await God’s ever loving mercy, we prepare our lives to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel as we follow our teacher to the cross.