Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ash Wednesday

The good folks at have provided an on-line version of their popular Catholic Updates to discuss the significance of Ash Wednesday.
When we receive ashes on our foreheads, we remember who we are. We remember that we are creatures of the earth ("Remember that you are dust"). We remember that we are mortal beings ("and to dust you will return"). We remember that we are baptized. We remember that we are people on a journey of conversion ("Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel"). We remember that we are members of the body of Christ (and that smudge on our foreheads will proclaim that identity to others, too).

Renewing our sense of who we really are before God is the core of the Lenten experience. It is so easy to forget, and thus we fall into habits of sin, ways of thinking and living that are contrary to God's will. In this we are like the Ninevites in the story of Jonah. It was "their wickedness" that caused God to send Jonah to preach to them. Jonah resisted that mission and found himself in deep water. Rescued by a large fish, Jonah finally did God's bidding and began to preach in Nineveh. His preaching obviously fell on open ears and hearts, for in one day he prompted the conversion of the whole city.

From the very beginning of Lent, God's word calls us to conversion. If we open our ears and hearts to that word, we will be like the Ninevites not only in their sinfulness but also in their conversion to the Lord. That, simply put, is the point of Ash Wednesday!

The entire Update may be found here. Another resource from American Catholic is this wake-up call that provides some suggestions for Lenten practices, including these two:
• Reflect on how responsible you are being with your faith life. Make note of ways you are growing or ways in which you can improve. Keep that note close at hand as a constant reminder.

• Think about last Lent. Did you fulfill the promises you made during that Lenten season? If not, what went wrong? If so, have you made any changes? If you didn’t quite get it right last Lent, perhaps you should give it a second try this year before moving on to a new promise.