Reflecting on Ash Wednesday 2008

Ashes - a reminder of our mortal bodies

Last Wednesday, February 6 2007, was Ash Wednesday. According the traditions of the Catholic Church it is a day of fast, abstinence, prayer and imposition of ashes on our foreheads. Unfortunately this year these traditions were postponed to a later date because of the Chinese New Year.

LENTEN REFLECTION: Signed with Ashes, Sent to Serve(COL)

When I was a boy, I still remember the words the priest uttered when imposing the ashes on my forehead – “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. These words of my priest, though very meaningful did not touch me then at that tender age. When we were young, we were full of strength, energy and vitality. Death was appeared alien to us. We considered ourselves to be strong and invincible and we continue to enjoy life to the fullest.

Today being much older, inflicted with so many ailments and our vitality is rapidly draining away, we realize that death is some a real and imminent. We have already witnessed the death of many of our friends and relatives, some of whom were very dear to us. Today what my priest said on Ash Wednesdays becomes more significant.

The imposition of ashes reminds us, despite our social status, that we are all mere mortals and our physical bodies would perish one day. Today we may be alive with great power, wealth, beauty and strength but tomorrow our bodies may be reduced to dust. Reflecting on those words of the priest makes me realize that greed for material comforts is indeed foolish. In fact it is more important to cultivate the love of Christ that is within each and every one of us, which will bring everlasting rewards from God.

Today we leave our jobs to fast, abstain and receive the ashes without fail, but has the significance of the act really touched us in the way it should? Many of us don’t even know what the priest is saying or doing. We receive the ashes because it is a trend which we have to follow.

This is the reality of the fast moving world today, to follow the trend in order to be accepted into the system. There are rampant breaches of God’s laws - greed, lust, cheating, corruption, adultery and so on; in fact the list is endless. The sad thing is that we are slowly but surely beginning to accept these “sins” as norms with total disregard to the teachings of Jesus. We are tempted to follow the trend and if we don’t we’ll be left behind in the social and economic competition.

This is the real test of our faith and society in general today. As Christians can we say “NO” to this worldly trend and follow that set by Christ?

Let’s pause a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the words that we hear every Ash Wednesday “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. May these words may give some strength and courage to say “NO” to the materialistic trend that is fashionable today. May they give us some meaning in the direction we are heading in our own lives.

In this context it may be relevant for us to be reminded by the words of the Holy Father,Pope Benedict XVI on this Ash Wednesday"Like the disciples of Jesus Christ we are called not to idolise worldly goods, but to use them as a means to live and to help others in need"

Dr.Chris Anthony

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