Ash Wednesday Reflection

Like many of you, I grew up in a protestant church–a baptist one to be exact. We had about as much connection to the traditional church calendar as we did to the Mayan, so days like Ash Wednesday were cognitively placed in my mind labeled “Things that Catholics Do”.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to search for more of a connection with the historical church, and the church calendar. So, when my pastor announced last Sunday that we would be doing an Ash Wednesday service to kick off the Lent season I was quite excited.

At 6:30 this morning a few friends and I braved the icy Western Michigan roads before work. We entered the church to dimmed lights, a sparse stage, and–for me–a sense of mystery. There was a homily, some responsive readings and then we were invited to come and receive the ashes.

I took a moment to pray, to ask God to use this season of Lent to shape me into more of what he wants me to be and approached the stage. Kneeling in front of a man who held a simple white dish filled with dark ashes, I raised my head and he whispered to me these words:

“Remember from ashes you came, to ashes you will return.”

As he made a cross on my forehead I felt penitent, unworthy, quite mortal. We truly are passing through this life, from ashes we have come and that is exactly where we’ll return.

But, and thank God in heaven there’s a ‘but’, the hope we have in Jesus saves us from the eternal death we deserve. Even though we know that death is imminent for all, as Christians we’re called to more than just existing and dying, we’re invited to live under Christ’s reign in the here and now as well.

I was joining in on Christ’s suffering with my fellow brothers and sisters throughout history, and walking around today with the sign of the cross smudged across my forehead served as an excellent reminder of what my faith means, that I’ve been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20).

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