Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

“Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” (Gn. 3:19)  These words, spoken for the first time by God to Adam after he had committed sin, are repeated today by the Church to every Christian, in order to remind him of two fundamental truths—his nothingness, and the reality of death.  Dust, the ashes which the priest puts on our foreheads today, has no substance; the lightest breath will disperse it.  It is a good representation of man’s nothingness: “O Lord, my substance is as nothing before Thee” (Ps. 38:6), exclaims the Psalmist.  Our pride, our arrogance, needs to grasp this truth, to realize that everything in us is nothing.  Drawn from nothing by the creative power of God, by His infinite love which willed to communicate His being and His life to us, we cannot—because of sin—be reunited with Him for eternity without passing through the dark reality of death.  The consequence and punishment of sin, death is, in itself, bitter and painful; but Jesus, who wanted to be like to us in all things, in submitting to death has given all Christians the strength to accept it out of love.  Nevertheless, death exists, and we should reflect on it, not in order to distress ourselves, but to arouse ourselves to do good.  “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin .” (Sir,7:40)  The thought of death places before our eyes the vanity of earlthy things, the brevity of life—“All things are passing; God alone remains”—and therefore it urges us to detach ourselves from everything , to scorn every earthly satisfaction, and to seek God alone.  The thought of death makes us understand that “all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.” (Imit. I 1,4)  “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die…then there will be many things about which you care nothing.” (Teresa of Jesus)  That is, you will give up everything that has no eternal value.  Only love and fidelity to god are of value for eternity.  “In the evening of life, you will be judged on love.” (St John of the Cross)”     --Divine Intimacy, Ash Wednesday selection
So many times, I approach Lent thinking… “I’m determined to make this the best Lent ever!  I’m going to get up every morning at 5am, meditate for an hour, fast on bread and water, read from these 5 spiritual books AND the entire Bible…..” 
Right attitude, impractical approach!  Especially now that I have a 3 month old munchkin who not only requires 110% of my attention, but also is not the most predictable creature!  Father gave a sermon a couple of Sundays ago that really hit home for me.  He spoke on how valuable it was to offer up “what was in our power” to offer.  It’s not realistic to go into Lent with extremely high expectations of all the sufferings and mortifications you’ll do…of all the time you’ll spend devouring books and prayers, and all the extra things you’re going to perform.  It’s just not practical.  You set the standard unrealistically high, and set yourself up for failure.  Now , that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who have already reached such a high degree of holiness and are able to do all these things.  But for me?  I need to be practical, so I won’t fall flat on my face after the first week of Lent.  After all, isn’t that Satan’s plan for us all?  Get us to strive so much higher than we’re ready for, only to get discouraged and give up! 
We’re not all meant to be “St Joan of Arcs.”  Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus said, some of us need to be content to just be the little flowers.  So I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over my Lenten resolutions, conforming helpful hints to really stick to them, and ultimately, reap the most graces I can this Lent.   
Here’s what I’ve come up with:  Be R E S O L U T E!
  • Remember to be realistic.  Be practical.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  You can always add more as you adjust further into the spirit of Lent.
  • Entreat Our Lady.  She is our Mother, and she WANTS to assist us in any way possible.  We can’t do it alone.  Ask the Blessed Mother to guide you throughout this liturgical season, and help you stick to your resolutions.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others and their sacrifices.  In fact, don’t even mention or ask what others are doing for Lent.  What makes sense for YOU?  Concentrate on what YOU need to do and the changes YOU need to make that work for YOU.
  • Offer your day to the Lord.  Whether climbing out of bed, taking a shower, or brushing your teeth….offer your day to Christ and ask for the graces to remain strong throughout the day.
  • Look for the small sacrifices.  Even the smallest sacrifices contain great graces, so don’t let those chances slip away.  Sitting in traffic?  Offer it up!  Stuck in the long line at the grocery store?  Offer it up!  There are so many little things that could be turned into great graces if we just take the time to notice them.
  • Use your time wisely.  While you want to be realistic and practical, don’t idle your time.  If you’re folding laundry or ironing clothes, start a Rosary.  Listen to an audio sermon.  Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  We as Catholics have such a treasury of prayers and ejaculations memorized -- dust them off that “cranium shelf” and put them to good use during Lent!  
  • Take ten!  Work with your schedule to find at least ten minutes for some quiet reflection, whether its right when you wake up, or before you go to bed, or some time in between.  Read from the life of a saint, read a few bible verses, or a quote from a saint.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly these ten minutes can be a “pick me up” for you.  Can’t remember to take those ten minutes?  Leave your spiritual book out on the coffee table or on your bedside table.  It’ll be too easy to forget about it if you leave it tucked away on the shelf!
  • Endeavor!  Don’t give up.  Don’t get discouraged.  The whole point of Lent is to grow spiritually.  No matter how many times you fall, pick yourself back up and continue to carry your cross to Calvary.  On Easter Sunday, you can present it to Our Lord and be able to tell Him you did your best.
We wish you all a fruitful season of Lent!  Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for us!

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