Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, it reminds us that we won’t in fact, life forever but for us as Christians that is not cause to be morbid or melancholy. It’s simply a reminder; but one that we need to remind us not to simply live for the day; but to live our lives with meaning and purpose today and every day for the rest of our lives. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” is one of the pronouncements made as the ashes are placed on our foreheads. It’s easy for us to place ourselves at the centre of our own universe and to forget that we are but a part of the universe. For us as Christians we must remember that we are an important part of the universe; God has given us a role, and we are by that role an important part of the universe. That is step one for us on Ash Wednesday, because this is not simply a message offered to the one who hasn’t been living life as a Christian at all. Even for us as Catholic Christians who have lived by faith, we too can fall short in our daily habit and set aside our role or wallow in self-pity or begin to allow ourselves to become mundane or too routine in our lives. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. These are the other choice words offered to us as we are marked by ashes today. These words are offered by Jesus to His followers whom He understood had lived far away from God and needed to come close in order to truly live by the Word. It is the case for most of us as we’ve reached adulthood, that we have made certain and often many choices which need to be reconciled before we are free to grow in deep love. Just as in any meaningful relationship we experience in life, if we are to grow in passion and love, forgiveness will always be a part of that relationship; it’s necessary, it’s essential and there really is no other way because to try to move on or move past without forgiveness, without repentance we are always somehow limited in our ability to love. Believing and living for the Gospel requires unbridled and uninhibited love, otherwise we will always hold back something.
This is a vocational reflection, a reflection on God’s personal and unique calling for you, and other than the obvious connection that we need to be good and true Christians to follow God’s will and desire for us; what more can we reflect upon on this Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent and the forty days that follow is meant to be life-changing, reflective and to call us to more closely follow Jesus Christ in our lives. These are all key components of the living out of our vocation too. Lent in its penitential or sacrificial practices reminds us that without the crosses, there is no Christ. Crosses are not only an important but an essential part of our Christian life and it is only when we carry them, sometimes suffer them but allow ourselves to be purified by them that we discover what it really means for us to be Christians. The joy of the Gospel but also the challenge it offers us lead us to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, His Church and this leads us to the discovery of our vocation. No matter what our vocation is, whatever it may be; it will be one of radiant joy that we experience and share with each other; but it will be one that requires purification and one that requires Lent. It’s only when we allow ourselves the commitment of Lent each year that we break habits that creep up upon us and make ordinary and sometimes even mundane – and force us to think about being extraordinary! When we think this way, and believe that this is truly what the Lord has called us to be and equipped us to be by our baptism; we are ready to commit or re-commit ourselves to our vocation. May God bless you.