“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Today, February 22, we enter the solemn Lenten season of preparation and repentance. Ash Wednesday reminds us in a dramatic manner of our inevitable death—that our mortal bodies will fail and return to the dust from which they originated. But in this way, despite our medical advances, we are more importantly reminded that we can not triumph over death without the help of He who literally triumphed over death. When Jesus emerged from His tomb two thousand years ago, He freed us from the chains of death, inviting us to live in His glory with Him. Without that sacrifice—without that invitation—we would literally turn to dust, our mortal bodies ravaged by time and earthly emptiness.
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. As we go about our days, with the mark of Christ on our foreheads, not only do we bear witness to the saving power of Christ to those around us, but we literally identify ourselves as the “walking dead” without His intercession.
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)
And as we know, the Lord forgave Job and bestowed on him countless blessings, just as the Lord does for us with the great gift of the Resurrection.
“The season of Lent is: "to offer in the joy of the Holy Spirit, of our own accord a measure of service...Less food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the joy of spiritual desire await holy Easter." We are called to deep, personal conversion during Lent—and this conversion begins in love and joy, through the practice of repentance and penance.
I pray you each experience a profoundly enriching Lenten season, moving closer to the Lord with every step we take toward the glory of Easter!
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, the all-holy one, who gives us life and all things. As we go about our lives, the press of our duties and activities often leads us to forget your presence and your love. We fall into sin and fail to live out the responsibilities that you have entrusted to those who were baptized into your Son.
In this holy season, help us to turn our minds and hearts back to you. Lead us into sincere repentance and renew our lives with your grace. Help us to remember that we are sinners, but even more, help us to remember your loving mercy.
As we live through this Ash Wednesday, may the crosses of ashes that mark our foreheads be a reminder to us and to those we meet that we belong to your Son. May our worship and prayer and penitence this day be sustained throughout these 40 days of Lent. Bring us refreshed and renewed to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
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."