“Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”
Saint Pope John Paul II
During this Sunday’s announcements, our pastor reminded us that Ash Wednesday was already upon us. After sharing the Mass schedule for the day, Father gave a heads up that this year, due to the pandemic, ashes would be in the ancient form of a sprinkle, versus the epic crosses we are used to having him mark on our foreheads. He’s a very generous ash-giver. As we got into the car, 10-year-old Katie wasn’t happy. "I don’t want ashes in my hair. How are people going to know I got them?" she said. I offered that it wasn’t so much a trophy as it was a mark of being sorry. Based on even just that morning’s shenanigans among the siblings, I politely suggested to Katie that perhaps this year she could substitute ashes for some acts of contrition to Jesus and to a few in her family. With a doubting face, Katie responded, "wearing the cross is a lot easier."
As I chuckled at Katie’s retort, I couldn’t help but also consider it’s profundity. Regardless of how we might receive our ashes this year, the question always remains, "how will they know we are Catholic?" The answer of course, is how we "wear the cross." Ashes only come once a year, but do my daily outward signs (or lack thereof) point to someone whose identity is centered on Christ? If wearing the cross feels like a sprinkle and doesn’t leave a mark, am I wearing it right? If we look to the original cross, the ultimate outward sign of love, it certainly doesn’t look like the path of least resistance. As we prepare to start another Lent in a world where we feel far apart, how far can we go with our outward signs to not only let people know who we are but more importantly whose we are? Blessings on how far you can take your Lent this year.