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. I personally need to take more time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving as the Gospel reminds us.
Speaking honestly, there is one thing that I hate, however. It is that phone call that comes to most parishes 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, after all, are a reminder of our mortality: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
They also tell 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 actually prefer not to have only a Liturgy of the Word service with the distribution of ashes. My thought process is this: some burnt palm on the forehead (a sacramental) is significantly less important than receiving Jesus, the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion.
Please 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 the entire year!
We need to take seriously the need to turn away from sin, to repent and to follow the Gospel.
Fr. Ed Namiotka