Who wants to hear that? Why will so many college students and Christians everywhere flock to church on Ash Wednesday to get smudged and called dirt?
Maybe, just maybe, we all know in our heart of hearts that we are sinners. I don’t mean in some great way, but certainly in so many ways we fall short, we fail, we participate in things that are far from becoming of one who professes to follow Christ.
The more traditional formula, “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return,” does mean more as the years progress and we are faced with the fact that we are finite. Yes, I will die. I don’t like to get morbid about that or dramatic, but Ash Wednesday does bring this reality to mind. So while I live, I want my life to mean something. I want to live a life more worthy of the Baptismal call I have received.
The new formula for Ash Wednesday has a different message: “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” While that dark smudge of a cross is being smeared on my forehead, I am being admonished to turn away from what is not good, what doesn’t bring me fulfillment and turn instead to the good news.
Ash Wednesday obviously marks the beginning of Lent. It literally marks me. Others who see me later in the day can see that smudge on my forehead. It is like announcing to all who see me that I know something important about myself. I am committed to being honest about myself. I want to begin again. I want to change for the better.
To help me in this change (conversion) I might participate in some forms of prayer, fasting and alms giving. Choose some practice that might really help you effect some change for the better. Giving up coffee one year resulted in my being so proud of the fact that I was able to do it. That was a wasted Lent! The year I promised to do one entertaining thing a week that would expand my soul and break my addiction to work was much more fruitful!
Let’s begin again.
Father Al Hirt