“Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” On this Ash Wednesday, we will hear these words as the priest marks our foreheads with ashes.
The ashes are symbolic of our humanity and need for God's mercy. Ash Wednesday is the start of the 40 days of Lent, where we're called to walk into the desert with our Lord in the same way that He did prior to beginning His public ministry.
The same kinds of questions typically come up around the days leading up to Lent. We start to think about what we might give up. Whether it's social media or extra snacks or wearing make up, the idea has always been to deny ourselves so that we can focus on what is really important.
Whenever I think about what my personal Lenten promises will be, I always try to come up with something that will be meaningful. Admittedly in the past, I tried to find the "holiest" option or something that my parents, teachers, or priests would praise me for. But recently — especially after having done Fiat 90 last year — I was seriously challenged to figure out my 'why' behind the Lenten promises that I decided to take on. And once I heard myself say out loud that I was looking for praise, I realized very quickly that I needed a new why, because that was not it.
It's good to aspire for holiness; after all, there is a universal call to do so. But all of us are called to live out this holiness and spread the Gospel using the gifts and talents that we have been given. In the same way, each of us have different trials and struggles that we may encounter in our spiritual life. It is here that we want to begin our reflection into why we are taking on a Lenten promise.
The question that I've been meditating on a lately is this: What has been holding me back from giving myself completely to Him?
There are a number of distractions in my life, some of which include the things that I listed earlier. But our time in the desert and giving up these little comforts should not be one of feeling sorry for ourselves and contorting our faces to bring about sympathy from others. It should be a time of growing and walking closer with our Lord.
Because when we think about ashes and dust, we know that that is exactly what we are. One day, our bodies and our reputation will cease to exist. So what really matters in the eyes of our Lord?
God desires closeness and relationship with us, plain and simple. It doesn't matter what we've done, how much praise we've gained from others or how successful we've become. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. At the end of it all, all He wants to see is how we have loved Him and made decisions to grow with Him.
With the Lenten season upon us, I encourage you think deeply about the barriers that are keeping you from giving yourself totally to our Lord, and what He might be calling you to surrender these 40 days. You may be surprised with where He calls you to go!
In solidarity, your sister in Christ,