On Wednesday, you received the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes, reminding you that you came from the dust and to the dust you will return. It’s a pretty sobering thought. I always think of Old Testament sackcloth and ashes kind of stuff. The penitent person, shouting to the world he’s wrong and he’s sorry by smearing dirt on his head and wearing an itchy shirt. I hope you’re not just now figuring out that I’m no biblical scholar.
Well, I must admit that I did not go to Ash Wednesday Mass for the first time in years. I always went as a child, missed a few years when I thought I was too smart for God (another story for another day) and have relished in every Lenten fast and liturgy since finding my way back to the church. So, when exactly five of my five children were vomiting all over every surface in my house, I did something uncharacteristic and I sacrificed my place in church so that my husband could go.
Now is where I really confess. I found it extremely difficult to skip Ash Wednesday mass. (Yes, I know it is not a holy day of obligation.) Mass would have meant a break from the sickness and I’ll take the holy smells of the Sacrifice of the Mass over the funky breath of my kids any day and especially on days they have emptied the contents of their stomachs all over the couch. More than needing a break, my pride was making it very difficult to make the decision. It went something like this (in my head of course), “I am a good catholic. There are people who think I’m a faithful person. Since I’m overweight, dress poorly and have greasy hair, it is important that I keep that good reputation intact. It’s all I have left!”
And that is how I realized that I’d been wearing those ashes for many years like a badge of honor. Rather than the sackcloth and ashes that they mimic from the Old Testament, I was walking up the aisle ready to get my medal. Recognizing that disgusting pride, I offered to stay home and care for the sick kids. I deserved it.
It was with a spirit of recognition of my sins that I entered into Lent and it was with that same spirit that I was truly able to hear God speaking in His Holy Word on the first Sunday of the Lenten season.
The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
God created us out of dirt. Out of nothing He made man and woman and without God in my life, I am nothing. Without God, life is meaningless. The only way for me to truly live is to ask Him to send his Spirit to breathe life into me. To ask Him daily to walk with me.