Reflections for Ash Wednesday

Saying "NO" to worldly temptations


Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fast, abstinence and prayer. It is a day when the priest imposes ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our mortal bodies which will perish one day.

We still remember the words the priest uttered when imposing the ashes on our foreheads when we were children – “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. These words of our priest, though very meaningful did not mean much to us at that tender age. When we were young, we were full of strength, energy and vitality. Death 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 something 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 our priest proclaimed on every Ash Wednesday has become more significant.

The imposition of ashes reminds us, despite our social status,wealth and power,we are all mere mortals and our physical bodies, however strong and beautiful, would perish one day. Today we may be alive with great power, wealth, beauty and strength but tomorrow our bodies may be reduced to nothing but dust. Reflecting on those words of the priest should make us realize that greed for material comforts of our mortal bodies 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 may take leave from 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 like we did as children.

This is the reality of the fast moving world today, to follow the trend in order to be accepted into the system. The trend involves rampant breaches of God’s laws – greed, lust, cheating, corruption, adultery, hate and violence; 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 for the teachings of Jesus although we claim to be his followers. We are tempted to follow the trend as if we don’t we’ll be left behind in this keenly competitive world.

Life has become a keenly contested race which we have to win at all times and at all costs to protect and safeguard our mortal bodies. We are least perturbed that by our win someone else more deserving may have lost, which does not seem to bother us. The real test of our faith is whether we can go against the trend to be magnanimous to allow someone more deserving than us to win at times.

As Christians can we say “NO” to this worldly trend and follow that set by Christ? Let’s pause to reflect on the true meaning of the words that we will once again hear this Ash Wednesday as we receive the ashes on our foreheads, “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”.

Let this Ash Wednesday be a reminder that our mortal bodies are not going to take us far in the Kingdom of God. May those words give us some strength and courage to say “NO” to the material trend that is fashionable today. May they give us some meaning in the direction we are heading in our own lives.

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