On March 1, three days from today, Catholics worldwide will receive the ashes on their foreheads as a reminder that “they are from dust and into dust they shall return.” This day marks the beginning of the Holy Season of Lent. It is also a day of fasting and abstinence.
The simple ritual, liturgically termed “imposition of the blessed ashes” of dried palms, calls to mind a beautiful paradox or seeming contradiction: the fleetingness of our human body and its dignified honor.
As something material the human psyche is just like any flesh-and-blood object which can decay and be reduced to nothingness. But the soul where God dwells will live forever.
The 40 days of prayer and reflection on the suffering and death of Jesus accompanied by acts of self-sacrifice and charitable works can strengthen our body, soul and spirit thus manifesting the power of the Lord’s Resurrection.
I pray that assiduous and constant observance of these Lenten practices will help everyone counter the many materialistic concerns that weaken body, soul and spirit. The burning issues of the day are already threatening the inner peace that should be ours as followers of the Prince of Peace and the Queen of Peace.
These Lenten observances are being done in the context of our parishes. Doing so with intelligence, creativity and enthusiasm under the leadership our parish priests will surely highlight the importance of the Parish as the Communion of Communities.