Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Sunday (February 19, 2012), we heard from the Gospel the story of the paralytic who's faith (and that of his friends) allowed him to be healed. However, without the hard work of carrying the man through the crowds, lifting it to the roof, tearing a hole in the roof, and lowering the litter, the man would never have been healed. This hard work equates to sacrifices during Lent (and all year), confession of sins (to a priest), performance of penance (assigned by the priest), and resolution to sin no more. Each task can seem too difficult to begin much less sustain. God knew of our human proclivity to sin, so He sent His Son to institute the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ did this by giving His disciples the power to forgive sins if the sinner but asked forgiveness. In this Sacrament, we join hands with the Eternal Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit, to rise from our sins and suffering to experience life everlasting.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. We are marked with ashes to give witness to our unity in causing Christ's wounds. The ashes we receive remind me of the children's song, Ring Around the Rosie. The verse "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" reminds me that we are all marked with ashes and we all fall down on our commitment to God. On this day, we are marked with ashes as a sign of our soul's stains of sin. Even as we are marked, we are able to see that we are all stained. We can take comfort in knowing that we all fall down and sin. By marking ourselves with the sign of our sins on this day, we call to mind Peter's exhortation to "do penance" for the sake of our salvation. Penance should not be looked at as punishment, but as an offering to God. God can use our sorrows, sufferings, and failings, if we repent, to care for our afflicted Lord in His time of need. At one point in Mark's gospel, Christ declares that some evil is able to be expelled "by nothing other than prayer and fasting". What is prayer and fasting but penance for our sins? How can we better serve our Lord than obeying His commands with humility?

Lent is a time to rejoice that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son. The Son died a horrific death so that we may experience wondrous life everlasting. Christ said "whosoever believes in Me has eternal life", but He also exhorted many of those He healed to "go and sin no more" after He told them "your sins are forgiven". Scripture's words about salvation are often stretched to indicate that faith alone cures us of our sins. In reality, our sins are the cause of Christ's glorious wounds. We are healed by those wounds, but only if we behave as God's people. Faith without works is nothing but a "clanging gong". When faith combines with confession of sins (a particularly humbling work of faith) a glorious symphony of Faith rises to Heaven.

This is a post with Catholic Blog Day.

Update: I wrote this before I went to Mass, and the priest also emphasized that Lent is a joyous time. I thought that was great!


Gardenia said...

what a wonderful perspective to have for Lent. ((It's all in the way we look at things, sometimes.)) thanks for stopping by my blog. Nice to meet you.

Raising {& Teaching} Little Saints said...

Beautiful Erika! <3

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