Here is a reflection written by Rev. Richard Mastrogiacamo.
Today, we are marked with ash. We are branded with the sign of our faith, the Cross.
Do we know what that sign means?
Can we read it?
More than a symbol, or a custom, this signifies the start of an important journey. It says to all those who will see us that we are making a commitment – that we are undertaking Lent, a season of prayer and penitence.
It also describes our human condition: it says that we are broken, and need repair; that we are sinners and need redemption.
And: it says, most importantly, that we are followers of Jesus Christ. We are Christians. We bear the sign of the Cross.
What we are doing today is making explicit something that has been ours since the moment we were baptized. The first thing the priest or deacon does in the ritual for baptism is make the sign of the Cross on the forehead of the person about to be baptized. In that way, that person is claimed for Christ.
At that moment, the sign of the Cross is invisible.
But today, we make it visible.
And we do that with something that is a mark of our humility, and our humanity.
Make no mistake: this is a radical act. But we do it. We are Catholic Christians – living the legacy of the Cross, and bearing its mark.
We are flesh and blood. The delusions of the world are just that – delusions. And here, during this cold time of year, when the ground is frozen and the trees are bare, we openly acknowledge the reality of the human condition. We acknowledge our mortality. We wear it on our foreheads. We proclaim it to all who see us: This is what we will one day be.
It says that we are dust.
It says to all who see us that we are using this 40-day season of prayer and penitence, these last days of winter, to make ourselves ready for that springtime moment of rebirth, the resurrection. It says we intend to make ourselves right with God and with one another, by renewing our commitment to our faith, to our calling as Christians; by renewing our commitment to the Cross.
And so, we decide to do without. We fast. We give alms, and make sacrifices. We seek to remind ourselves what really matters, and what our ultimate purpose is.
And today, we remind ourselves what our ultimate destiny is.
It’s there on our foreheads.
The cross is our calling card. It announces what we believe, and whom we represent. It is the sum and substance of this season.
But what about tomorrow? When the ash is washed away, will people know? Will anyone be able to tell that we are marked with the Cross, that we have been claimed for Christ? Will they sense it by how we live, what we do, the sacrifices we make, the quiet acts of penance we perform? Will the invisible tracing left at our baptism, and reinforced this day, be clear to those we meet?
Let’s not make this a one-time, passing event. In the days and weeks to come, remember what happened today, how our Lenten journey began.
And, when each of us takes one last look in the mirror tonight before going to bed, let’s remind ourselves just what that marking means.
Hello followers and whoever else! I am sorry for the inactivity and lack of posts on the blog lately. School work has been getting the best of me and I’m having trouble finding time to fit in this project. Hopefully some regularity will return to the posting schedule soon. Sorry for any disappointments. Please tell your friends to follow!
(Another one of my favorites, good readings this Sunday)
On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.