Today the Church celebrates the beginning of Lent, which always starts with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday gets its name primarily for the action of putting Ashes on the foreheads of the faithful. These ashes are made from palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday Mass in a special ceremony.
During Ash Wednesday Mass, the faithful walk up to receive their ashes. The person distributing the ashes will either say “you are dust and dust you shall return,” or “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Both sayings hold onto the the very essence of why we celebrate Lent.
The first is an acknowledgment of the fact that we are mortal and we will die. During Lent, we should pray and consider if we are doing the most with this life that Christ has won for us when he shed his blood on the Cross. Are we gearing our lives to heaven or only focusing on the here and now?
The second statement ultimately means the same thing--during Lent we are called for a rejuvenation of our faith and a recommitment to avoid sin and turn to the Gospel. The season of Lent is a journey of reflection and of prayer about our lives and remembering that Christ died for our sins. Are we striving to live for him, or do we forget how Jesus wants us to live our lives?
So, like Advent, let us use this time of waiting to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection by striving to live better lives and to realign our lives to keep God at the center.