I am glad that Lent is here. If used the way it is intended, this season is a tremendous spiritual preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
There is one thing that I hate, however. It is that phone call that comes constantly on Ash Wednesday asking: “Father, what time are ashes?”
Why the tremendous preoccupation with ashes? Why can’t the question be: “What time is Mass?” or “When can I receive Holy Communion?”
What is it about ashes?
Ashes are a reminder of our mortality: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
They also remind us of our need to do penance: Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
It is my hope that people do not see ashes (burnt palm) as something that they “need to get,” above and beyond the desire to attend Mass and to receive Holy Communion on that day. That is the reason why I prefer not to have a Liturgy of the Word service with the distribution of ashes. Some burnt palm on the forehead (a sacramental) is significantly less important than receiving Jesus, the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion.
Remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting (one full meal) and abstinence from eating meat. With Good Friday, these are the only two days that we are required by the Church to fast all year!
Take seriously the need to turn away from sin, to repent and to follow the Gospel.
Fr. Ed Namiotka