Today marks the first day of the Lenten season for Catholics. It is called Ash Wednesday. It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in which they receive the ashes, that were made from last year's palms, placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross by the priest. The ashes represent a few things. The first thing they represent ofcourse is the beginning of the Lenten Season. The second thing they represent is an outwardly sign of being in a state of penance. Finally, it represents what God told us in the Bible. Don't quote me exactly; "From ashes you were brought forth and to ashes you shall return." As you can probably tell from my knowledge, yes I am Catholic and yes I attended 12 years of Catholic school.
I kind of like the one about us returning to ashes. It is a simple reminder that our life here on earth is only temporary. This life is just a pit stop on our whole journey. Of course it is hard to fathom this since we only really are aware of this life that we are living now and it seems to be everything and the only thing to us. I grapple with that too. It's hard to imagine this as being just a pit stop but then I try to remember that my faith teaches me that it is just that. Returning to ashes also reminds me of how fragile we really are. Sometimes we forget that. With all of our technological advances, medicinal advances, and being the superior species we tend to think of ourselves as sometimes indestructible or untouchable. But we are! We see it everyday on the news of death, violence, assaults, and illnesses. We see this news so much we are almost desensitized towards it. (I don't think I spelled that word correctly, oh well.) Death is all around us all the time. Yet somehow we still think of ourselves as somewhat untouchable like we are thinking, "That would never happen to me. Not in my neighborhood." But it does and it will at some point in time. We are fragile. We do return to ashes. We need to stop over-inflating our egos and realize this. We need to get off of our pedastool. The impact we are having on the world, different species, and the environment is tragic. It's like we are all wearing over-sized combat boots as we stomp around this delicate earth. We need a slap of reality that we are only but a mere thread in the fabric of life and the tapestry of the universe.
Lent is a time to share in the Passion of our Lord. It isn't a joyous time. It is the time Jesus is sent to be crucified. It is a time of sorrow, deep repentance, fasting, alms giving and abstinence. I'm not trying to make it all to be all gloomy because it isn't. If Jesus didn't go through this then we couldn't end up celebrating His Resurrection and our entry way into heaven. This is a time to reflect on our sins, faults, and behaviors. It isn't just for Catholics because anyone can do this. Not just for Lent either. It is healthy and keeps us humble by acknowledging our mistakes and asking for forgiveness to any god that you worship and to any person in our lives that we should vocally apologize to. It's a cleansing. And in today's world I think everyone could benefit from a cleansing of the soul, mind, and heart. I honestly believe it should be a necessity.
Think of Jesus' passion as a seed. A seed loses its shell and dies in order for it to take root and spring forth new life. This can apply to our troubles in life also. Hardships are bestowed upon us so that we can lose our tough exterior and break us down in order for us to have new life.