Ashes to Ashes: A Lenten Reflection

confess

confess

When we receive ashes on the Day of Ashes, or Ash Wednesday, while the priest make the sign of the cross on our foreheads with ashes he says “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This phrase, while reminding us about our own mortality, should also remind us of the mighty power our Creator possesses.

In His glorious and mysterious way, God created us in His own image. We are all formed in a unique and personal way, but all of us are still a reflection of God Himself. And we’re called to reflect His image in the way we love God and in how we love one another.

On this last point, Pope St. John Paul II remarked, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know Himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” In short, what the Pope was saying is that we’re called to know, love and serve God, which leads us to loving and serving one another.

The effects of sin

But when we look at the world around us, we can see how unloving and inhumane people can be at times. Simply turning on and watching the evening news for five minutes these days can be enough to make one crest-fallen.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote that Satan put the “notion into the heads of our remote ancestors” that they could “invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. Out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Lewis wrote his book in 1952, but his observation still holds true today. The state of humanity is the way it is because of sin. And it harkens all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were given the choice to obey or disobey God. Even after they ate the forbidden fruit, however, God still loved them so much that He made a promise that foreshadows the salvation of Jesus Christ. God said to the snake:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head; while you strike at their heel” [Genesis 3: 15].

Christian tradition identifies the snake as the Devil, whose eventual defeat is implied in this passage. Irenaeus of Lyons, along with several other Fathers of the Church, has interpreted this verse as also referring to Christ, because “the Son of Man was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” [1 John 3:8].

The Sacrament of Confession

During this season of Lent, we should never forget that we are all sinners. In one way or another, we have all chosen to disobey God. Every time we sin, as Fr. Mike Schmitz remarked in a homily once, we’re saying “God, I know what you want me to do. But I am going to do what I want to do. I’m going to do it my way.” Whether we’ve committed a venial or a mortal sin, we’ve chosen to break God’s law. As a result, we’ve either put a strain on, or completely severed our relationship with God. But God, in His infinite Love and Mercy, is always ready to welcome us back. He lets us re-enter a state of grace through forgiveness of our sins via absolution in Confession.

During this season of Lent, many churches offer added times for Reconciliation.  Many parishes also hold penance services along with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession allows us to experience the mercy and forgiveness of God’s Love once more. Please don’t pass up such a wonderful opportunity to experience God’s love in this amazing sacrament. Let Him welcome you back into His loving arms, just like the father did in the Prodigal Son parable.

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