Would you receive an ashen cross on your forehead if it meant being ridiculed, mocked and laughed at or even worse, if it meant persecution? It would probably be easier to say yes to the first part of the question, but the last part of the question? I wonder what I would do?
If I knew that I lived in a place where Catholics were being persecuted and Ash Wednesday was coming, would I get ashes or would I hide? Would I get them, and wipe them off as fast as they were put on me, or as soon as I was walking out of the church?
There are so many who are being persecuted today for their belief in Christ. Many have had to run away and leave their homes for fear of being caught and persecuted. Many are living here today in our diocese.
The 21 martyrs from Egypt whose last words were, "Jesus my Lord," - what strong faith they had! Many of us in the United States have not had to face being persecuted for what we believe. This freedom is a blessing that we should never take for granted.
Although we are not being persecuted, we face other challenges that get in the way of building a closer relationship with Jesus.
Lent offers us an opportunity to look at our lives and to find ways to get closer to our Lord Jesus. Lent gives us the opportunity to look at what changes we need to make in our lives and what can remain the same. Some of those things that can get in our way are working long hours, spending too much time on technology, watching movies or television, consumerism, spending too much time at the bar or partying, or just being too active running from one activity to another. Stop, just stop. Lent calls us to stop for a little while and see where we are, to be silent so we can hear His voice, to check on our relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Here are some suggestions on what we can do during Lent. Make time during Lent to go to church, read the Bible, pray and meditate. If you have not been to church in a while, come on a Sunday and bring the family. Various retreat houses offer time of prayer. You can find them on the internet. Say the rosary or go on a Friday night to just about any Catholic Church and they will be doing the Stations of the Cross. Just call them; they will let you know the time and they will welcome you. Many parishes are offering Scripture Studies during Lent.
There is something about ashes and Lent that call fallen away Catholics and non-Catholics to receive ashes and to give up something during Lent. A radio station asked the questions. "If you are not going to church and you are not a practicing Catholic, why do you receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and why do you not eat meat on Friday?" It didn't make sense to the announcer. One lady said she used to be a practicing Irish Catholic but doesn't go to church anymore. She does it because she felt if Jesus died on the Cross for her, the least she and her children could do is receive ashes and do the sacrifice of not eating meat. This year let us make a stronger effort to go deeper, so that we can say, "Jesus My Lord, I love you so much. I would do anything for you even give my life as you gave Your life for me."