I love Ash Wednesday! Is that wrong? (I need to speak to my parish priest about that.) I know it begins lent; forty days within the Christian year when Christians re-focus on simple living, penance, prayer, and fasting to grow closer to God. But to me Ash Wednesday is the time I just want everyone to know how proud I am to be a sinful Christian! (hmm, that doesn’t sound right, Maybe I need to be more contrite in the words I choose?) Ash Wednesday is a day I humble myself and publicly proclaim my intent to die to my worldly desires and live even more in Christ’s image. (that’s better!)
Anyway, I love getting ashes on Ash Wednesday! I remember a pastor saying that more people come to Mass on Christmas and Easter and Ash Wednesday than any other time of year! Why is that? Ash Wednesday is not a Holy day of Obligation and it is not a Sacrament of the Church, but Christians have a love for ashes! …and donuts! Christians will line up for donuts like they line up for ashes! Sometimes, you can tell a Christian by the glaze on his forehead!
Big ashes are better! Not a half-hearted attempt at an ash! I want a big, bold, black, ashy cross, right there in the center of the forehead! I’ve had ashes before that look like a pitiful gray square, a thumbprint and once it even looked like the logo from Apple computers! If I have to suffer through the humility of one more imperfect ash I’m writing to the Bishop!
Is it bad to rank people on the quality of their ashes? Ashes are an outward sign of our inward repentance, but I can’t help but look at someone’s ash and say to myself, “On a scale of one through ten you are a three! Sorry! Better luck next year…sinner!” I’m always disappointed when I get home and I have a two! But the good ones are rare! I’m talking about the six and above, and that is what I want!
(Another question I need to ask my parish priest, “Is it wrong to compliment someone on the quality of their ash with a “Ooh, you got a good one!” or a “You’re so lucky!”)
Sometimes when you’re getting the ash you can feel little ash crumbles tumble down your nose! When this happens you’re in trouble! When you get back to your pew your face will start itching and your nose will tingle! You know if you scratch it will just smear the ash all over your face and then you just look stupid! So, you suffer through and make faces and try to act all “cool”, until you can get to the bathroom to extract all the little crumbles from their nested hiding places and realize you already look like the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins!
Yes, we Christians love Ash Wednesday! But really, we love that we have such a loving savior in Christ Jesus, that is always forgiving and merciful. This life is temporary and one day we will return to dust. It is only because of the love of God I am here! We acknowledge we are not worthy of such a great love, but God loves a humble heart and never rejects one of his children who calls on him and is truly sorry and seeking mercy! Ash Wednesday is an opportunity for a lot of us sinners to turn once again from our worldly ways, to humble ourselves, to repent, to seek the mercy of God and allow him to restore us, stoop down and clean our dirty faces!