We Catholics like symbols. (So does Harry Potter.)
What are ashes about?
What can they tell us about life? And death? And reality?
When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,
or REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.
So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.
Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we only dust?
Have made an ash-heap of our life?
Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?
If so, do we despair?
Or can we dream of rebuilding?
Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.
They could very well be true at any moment of our life. There but for the grace of God go I.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has invited us “that in this Jubilee Year of Mercy this season of Lent is a favorable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing works of mercy.[. . . ] By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift that they, too, are poor and in need.”
I was searching for a song about ashes and I found one by the Rock group Rev Theory in their song The Fire.
Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics; they seem to know this:
Tell me that I’m hopeless Tell me I’m a lost and wayward son Tell me that I’m callous Tell me that our life is too forgone
So take a breath and brace yourself
Tell me I’m a lost soul Tell me I’ve one foot in the grave Tell me that I’m shallow Tell me it’s enough to keep you awake
So take a breath and brace yourself
[Chorus] Coz tonight this could be the last chance before we die Can we rise again from the ashes? In this final moment Is the fire still alive? Tonight
Notice these guys are dealing with the same issues here.
Of being lost; of needing a change. And, amazingly, they use the metaphor of ashes and ask if the fire is still alive.
What is the fire for them? Love? Creativity? The Holy Spirit perhaps?
But for us, Lent is a season of hope that ends in new life, in risen life.
It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.
That’s what the word conversion means. To simply do a U-turn.
Turn around and head in a different direction.
Get going again.
CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expecting different results.
Or of just renewing and deepening our commitments. Or just deepen our fervor.
I have a little bone to pick with Catholics who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize: CHANGE.
Don’t just give up something for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.
Or as Pope Francis suggests ~ Listen to God’s Word and practice the works of mercy in this Year of Mercy.
So, let’s do Lent well — together.
During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.
And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change.
It seems Rev Theory are on their way to it already.
Whether you are Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,
some meaning for your life in these pages. Join us as we walk the journey together
as Jesus did — through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2016.
Now here’s Rev Theory’s ~ The Fire Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen but if you’re not used to rock music DON’T turn up your speakers.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on the Word of God. Click here.