Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Throughout the season of Lent, we are called to place more attention on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. In short, we are called to grow closer to God. The ashes we receive on our foreheads today at Mass signify that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” It is a reminder that we are sinners and that everything in our world here will one day be gone, even our earthly bodies. But through Christ, we know that we have been saved and although the worldly things around us fade, we have the promise of eternity in Heaven with Jesus because of His sacrifice for us. The ashes may be just for today, but the message they hold should go forward with us into Lent.
By fasting and giving up things we enjoy, we partake in small sacrifices. In this way, we acknowledge the sacrifice our Lord made for us and we also remember that it is not the things of this world that matter. Only Christ can bring us peace and the love He has will truly last forever. It only makes sense, then, that we place our focus on Him! By fasting, abstaining from meat, and giving up foods or habits, we recognize that our time and energy is best spent on our relationship with the Lord.
In addition to fasting, we are called to almsgiving. The message of the ashes speaks to us again as we are reminded that the wealth we have here on earth means nothing. Jesus tells us not to worry about money or how we will eat or what we will wear (Matthew 6:25-34) because He will provide. Therefore, we should be willing to give of our time and money as much as we are able. In this way, we remove our focus from the wealth of this world, which will eventually turn to dust and ashes, and instead place our focus on sharing the love of Christ.
During Lent we are called to spend more time in prayer with the Lord. The ashes we receive remind us that our goal is eternity with Him. Although we are sinners, we do not need to live in fear and sorrow because Christ has overcome death for us! The deep and profound love our Lord has for us should make us yearn to spend as much time with Him as we can while we are here on earth waiting to meet Him in Heaven. We can commit to spending more time in prayer by participating in retreats, attending Mass more frequently, reading the Bible more, spending time with the Lord in Adoration, participating in the Sacraments, etc. Through an increase in our prayer lives, we become more of the person God is calling us to be. We grow closer to God and are better able to share His love with others when we are continuing to go deeper and deeper into our own relationship with Him.
The ashes we receive at Mass today will wash off and be gone by tomorrow. But as we begin this season of Lent, let us pray that their message carries us through Lent. The material things of this world will perish, but the love of our Lord will never die. He has given Himself for us so that we too might live forever with all the angels and Saints in Heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.