Link to Today’s readings
Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite moments of the liturgical year. I know some may find this surprising but please allow me to explain. Of course, Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent which I find to be such an important opportunity of renewal in our faith journey. I believe that we as Catholics take for granted the rhythm of faith that the liturgical calendar offers us, and I think focusing on the significance of Ash Wednesday can help us to be more intentional about embracing these spiritual mile markers.
I like Ash Wednesday because it is so explicitly earthy, the Scriptures speak of “dust to dust” and Ash Wednesday has us marked with that very dust. It is an ingenious image that allows us to enter into the meaning of Lent on many levels. This day of ashes speaks to the incarnate, fleshy reality of our lives in important ways.
The daily readings at Mass recently included the passage from the Gospel according to Mark where Jesus heals a blind man using spittle. I love this imagery because it demonstrates so clearly that Jesus is a real human being doing real human things, while at the same time of course He is always God’s Divine Son. Ashes, spittle, sweat and blood are basic elements of being human that we can all relate to, and this is the point of Jesus’s incarnation. Hopefully as we celebrate another Ash Wednesday this image from the liturgy will draw us closer to our incarnate Lord as we seek to follow Him more faithfully during the coming Lenten journey.
Ash Wednesday is also a great image for healing and renewal, a chance to begin healing from the brokenness of abortion and other traumas in people’s lives. Too often after experiencing grave trauma people can feel as if they are reduced to nothing. In Christ we know that this is never the case, we are never simply the sinner but instead we are always the disciple called beyond the brokenness of sin. The ashes on our foreheads are a stark reminder of the dust to dust reality of the human journey but Jesus Christ has come to us precisely to remind us that in Him we are never merely dust to dust.
Let us pray and work to make sure that anyone who feels ground to dust by the burden of abortion is always reminded that in Christ they are lifted up to hope and new life. – Bishop Joseph Strickland