“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent—a period of repentance and penance for our sins in preparation for the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord. We are reminded today of our insignificance—that were formed by God from dust and ash; But we are also reminded of our significance to Him—that He would die for our sins, that we might have life in Him.
Biblically, ashes were a symbol of one’s repentance and wrongdoing. To put ashes upon oneself was a clear signal to those who witnessed it that one was a person of faith who had sinned against the Lord. The recognition and repentance can be viewed in much the same manner today, as we place the ashes on our foreheads in witness of the Gospel to the world, and recognition of our shortcomings.
At the end of his trials and suffering, although he stayed true in his faith in the Lord, Job repented in dust and ashes for his sinfulness.
1 Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)
Lent is a time of solemn contemplation of the Passion of Christ. We may choose to meditate, contemplate, or pray on His suffering for us. One way in which me might do this is through devotion to His Seven Last Words—the seven final phrases uttered by Christ as recounted in the Gospels. These Seven Last Words of the Passion of Christ are understood only in light of the true one Word of Life and Resurrection—the phrases uttered by Jesus before His death take on new life and new meaning following the glory of His ressurection. We sit with the pain and loss of crucifixion during Lent, but look forward to the brightness of new life on Easter.
1. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
3. “Woman, Behold your Son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)
5. “ I thirst.” (John 19:29)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
During Lent, I will be meditating (and posting) on the Seven Last Words—each Wednesday beginning next week, and finishing on Good Friday. I wish you all a deeply meaningful and repentant Lenten season.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."