Today is Ash Wednesday, officially marking the beginning of the Lenten season in the church. It's weird to think, less than two months ago we were celebrating the birth of Christ and now, we are in the most somber time of the church as we prepare for holy week and the resurrection of Jesus. These forty days, although difficult for many (they're supposed to be) is a true gift from the church.
In Advent, we celebrate and count down until Christmas. We hear week after week the events leading up to His birth. From the visitation of the angel Gabriel to the journey Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem, all we can think about are the exciting times ahead. Now, it's Lent -- a crucial time in our liturgical year, because it gives us believers the time to reflect on ourselves and the world around us. Today we will go to mass and receive ashes from the Palm Leaves from last year's Palm Sunday. When receiving these ashes we hear "remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return". Such serious and solemn words on your regular Wednesday. The eleven words mean so much from now until Holy Thursday. This phrase is reminding us that we are human. Natural living creatures with faults, flaws, bumps, bruises, and dents. Nobody is perfect here, nobody is exemplary except the LORD. This blessing reminds us to think on where we can better our lives, what we can pass up, what we can ignore, and what we need to improve on and similarly helps us recall that our peers are just as we are -- imperfect.
Following these forty days, we experience the happiest time in the church. Although during Christmas we receive God made flesh, during Easter we experience the eternal Christ and the third and final version of God to complete the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We cannot experience this incredible and awesome joy without experiencing self-sacrifice and sorrow. Christ experienced these similar feelings. These forty days represent the days He spent in the desert praying, fasting, reflecting, and rejecting the temptations of the devil. Jesus, half God half man, rejected demons as we are now. As He prepared for this final installment of His life on earth, we prepare for our new beginning in faith.
There are so many times in life where I look back and think, "I never should have even cared about that" or "I wish I cared more about that". I also can think of times where I wish I didn't do something whether it be run my mouth too much, not stand up for something, not be so materialistic, or turn my back on God. All of these are demons that we all live with. We all have turned out backs on our better judgement, family, friends, dreams, teams, and our faith. Again, we are dust -- nothing perfect, immaculate, or better than the person next to you.
The first epistle of Peter, verses 5 and 6 says "humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, He may lift you up in due time". These next several weeks, fall on your knees, come before the LORD and humble yourselves. Strip away the perfectionist attitude we put on, the armor we shield ourselves in, and the smile we all sometimes hide behind and show your imperfections. Those scratches, dents, bruises, and broken bones we all carry with us are demons we tote around daily. We get so caught up in the hustle of everyday life whether it be school, work, or family life that we never take the time to say "LORD, I am struggling. I turned my back on my instincts and my loved ones and I need help". Take the time to ask for help, open up the doors to the possibilities of salvation He can give you these next few weeks.
When we bow our heads and humble ourselves, we strip away all our burdens and demons, we become lighter to He may lift us up when we most need it. It can be so difficult to admit to ourselves that we have personal demons on our shoulders, but once we do, we automatically feel the hand of God on our newly cleared soul saying "I hear you and I'm here for you". Within these forty days, wipe away the demons that you carry around and welcome in the Holy Spirit. Take the time to admit your faults, take up a new cross and carry it with conviction, honor, dignity, and faith.