E HAVE COME AGAIN to our yearly ritual for beginning the season of Lent. We join together with our fellow Catholics all around the world today by receiving ashes upon our heads. Why do we do this? I submit that there are two reasons.
The first reason we receive ashes upon our heads is to remind us that we are finite beings. Our lives on this earth have a definite beginning and a definite end. As the Book of Genesis warns us, we are all dust, and unto dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19).
The second reason we receive these ashes is to remind us that we are poor sinners. In our modern world, it’s not popular to admit our faults. But at least today, on Ash Wednesday, we can publicly acknowledge that every single day of our lives we offend God in numerous ways. We turn away from His love, and choose to reject His plan for us.
Because we are finite and because we are sinners, we do not deserve eternal life. On our own, we have no right to heaven. The only way we could possibly reach heaven is if we had a Savior Who was not finite, but infinite, and Who was not a sinner, but sinless.
Fortunately, we have such a Savior. We have the kind of Savior foreseen by the Prophet Joel: “gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Joel 2:13). We have a beautiful Savior! Through the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving we undertake this Lent, may we come to appreciate more fully the gift God has given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior!