Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season and is marked with the distribution of blessed Ashes. It begins a wonderful season of reflection and preparation for us. Receiving Ashes as members of our church community helps us to recognize that we are all an important part of the Catholic community and are united with the Church in its Lenten preparation. We also need to include our children in this formation for Easter. Yes, children and infants can receive ashes.
Ashes are presented before the altar and distributed at the Service or Mass. The words spoken are either: “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” The atmosphere in the church is quiet and the observance solemn. The words are a reminder of how quickly human life can pass and calls to mind our need for repentance.
During the celebration children and adults process to the altar to receive Ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. It is a day when we discover how many Catholics there are in our community. A day when I am sure many of us have been asked what that black and cross is on our forehead. This sign is a physical mark of our faith for all the world to see. This is one day where we evangelize in appearance. It is one of the most observed weekday celebrations in the church’s liturgical year.
The readings for Ash Wednesday offer a number of important images that help us understand the meaning of this experience. The first reading calls us to repentance but also emphasizes that God is gracious and merciful slow to anger and rich in kindness. In the second reading Paul reminds us that the world sees the presence of Christ in the way we act. So be reconciled to God today! We are called to be the love and change we wish to see in the world. In the third reading Jesus reminds us that the sacrifice and prayers called for in Lent are between God and us. It is insincere for us to show off contrite actions to win the praise of others. Let others only see how our sacrifices and prayers help us love them better. What special Lenten practices will you commit to this Lent? What family activities will you participate in?
[And the Lord God] said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
Fr. Ed Blanchett
on Wednesday, March 6 at 3:00PM