Its Ash Wednesday morning (for me, right now; for you it’s already the first Sunday of Lent, obviously). Anyway…over the years I’ve gotten (mostly) used to a lot of things such as being called “Father” and hearing confessions and marrying and burying folks. What I don’t think I’ll ever get used to is looking an infant or toddler or kindergartener in the eye and putting a smudge of ashes on his or her forehead and saying, “ Remember, little one, you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” That is disturbing, a jolt, not to them so much but to me. It’s right but it’s wrong. For ten years as a hospital chaplain I’d go room to room in our pediatric wards, and for several of those years I’d also go floor by floor through Children’s Memorial Hospital, on Ash Wednesday. No adult—not nurses, not doctors, not parents—ever objected, that I can recall, but in that moment when I touched a tiny head with ashes and whispered, all of us in the room grew very quiet, a bit somber, and silently added to those ancient words,…”but please God, not for a very long time.”
Isn’t it strange that we don’t so much mind being graphically reminded of our own mortality but are shaken to see ashes on our children and admit the frailty of the little ones who look us in the eye with trust. In seeing their absolute, unspoken trust in us we come face to face with our own frailty and our own limits which we know all too well. It is especially then that we turn again to God with our own hope, trust, faith…to supply what we, ultimately, know we cannot. Lent’s message is simple: God is God, and I am not.
The Pope this morning said:
“Today, Ash Wednesday, begins our Lenten journey of penance, prayer and conversion in preparation for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst. Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted. May this Lent, then, be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.” Pope Francis---Ash Wednesday
P.S. Don’t forget that St. Matthias has Mass every morning at 7:15 am Monday- Thursday, Friday 8:15 am, Saturday 8:00am and 5 pm, Sunday at 8:00am, 10:30am and 4:00 pm. Friday Stations of the Cross throughout Lent are at 7:00pm