"Lenten Ashes"

First Sunday of Lent Year A

1 March 2020

"...For dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” Gen. 3:19

The time of Lent is a special time in the Church. It is traditionally a time of penance, prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter. In the early Church, public sinners would be brought to the gates of the Church where the Bishop would solemnly exclude them from communion with the Church. They would then wear sackcloth and their heads would be covered with ashes. Thus the present custom in the Church to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday as a sign of our repentance: “Behold now is the acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” II Cor. 6:2 Now is the time to repent! In our world where the darkness gets greater with each passing year, we must repent of our sins and turn to God. We do not know how many more years the Lord will give us to turn to Him. So, now is the time of our salvation.

“...for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” Gen. 3:19

The burnt ashes are a powerful sacramental which remind us of where we came from and where we are going. Like all sacramentals, they are a “sign” of our mortality; we are dust, we are nothing and we will die and return to ashes whence we came: “...for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” Gen. 3:19 The ashes remind us of our death! The blessed ashes also remind us of the cross of Jesus Christ. In administering the ashes, the priest anoints the forehead in the form of a cross. It is a reminder to us of all that Jesus underwent for our salvation. It is also a reminder to us of all the suffering we will have to endure to gain eternal life. This is why we voluntarily do penance for our sins during this time of Lent. We mortify ourselves and offer up all the sufferings that come our way in life. Only in the Cross of Christ will we obtain salvation! The anointing of the ashes in the sign of the Cross is also a reminder of the Blessed Trinity; this reminds us of our baptismal promises when we were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son

and the Holy Spirit, and we promised through our parents and godparents, to renounce the devil and sin. The blessed ashes also recall to mind the penances in the early church when the penitents put on sackcloth and ashes. Nowadays, it is not customary to wear sackcloth, but the penitential sprit should still be a part of our way of life. This is why the prophet Joel tells us: And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.Joel 2:13 This is also why the Royal Psalmist David reminds us to turn our hearts to God: “Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.” Ps. 50:12

“Create a clean heart in me, O God...” Ps.512

For us today, we need a clean heart! This is why it is so important to go to confessions as least monthly. We need to clean up our act before God! Our souls are like a garden; if we are in the state of sanctifying grace, our garden is beautiful with many flowers in the most beautiful arrangements. If we have mortal sin in our soul, our garden is filled with weeds, junk, broken glass and all kinds of unsightly items. We have all seen a garden like this! The longer it is left uncared for, the worse it gets! Confession of our sins will clean up this mess of sin which will prevent us from gaining heaven: “Or do you not know that the unjust will shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor the evil-tongued, nor the greedy will possess the kingdom of God.” I Cor. 6:9-10

“...unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” Lk. 13:3

We need to pray and do penance that the many people, whom we know who are in mortal sin no longer in the state of grace, will return to confession “for now is the acceptable time.” (II Cor. 6:2) We need to pray in the spirit of penance to keep the garden of our soul beautiful for the Lord. We need to renew our resolution to pray more, especially, the Holy Rosary in our families. Remember that Our Lady begged us every month from May to October at Fatima in 1917 to pray the rosary. Let us also thank God for our Catholic Faith with its sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance and its sacramentals, like Blessed Ashes, which remind us of our need to consider that we are “... dust ..., and into dust we shalt return.” (Gen. 3:19) Let us also pray and sacrifice as Our Lady said at Fatima: “Pray and sacrifice for many souls will go to hell because on one prays and sacrificed for them.

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