Today is Ash Wednesday or the first day of Lent. If you are not familiar with either it is probably because you have never been a Catholic or one of the other denominations that spun off from the Catholic church.
Ash Wednesday is a day of confession and repentance. Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on this day in order to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. During Mass, the ashes which give Ash Wednesday its name are distributed. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday. After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the church comes forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead and reminds them they came from dust and they will return to dust. It is a reminder of our need to be humble because we are mere mortals.
During the next forty days of Lent that lead up to Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, the church focuses on fasting and abstinence and setting spiritual growth goals for the coming spiritual year that kicks off with Easter Sunday.
I was in the Catholic church and attending a private Catholic school until fifth grade. Even as a boy I liked the days and seasons that were set aside as holy days in high recognition of our Lord and Savior to focus on Him as God and get back on track in our spiritual lives. At LCC, we have communion every first weekend of the month which is more than the average protestant church does communion. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is always a special time for me, and from the feedback I get from LCCers, it is also a special time for them.
I think that is why I enjoy church services so much. It is a time of much more intense, nothing else in the way, focus on our faith and the worship of Jesus. It is a time that as church family members we are connected to each other as we connect to God together. I bet I can count on one hand the times I have missed church since I recommitted to following Christ when I was 27 years old. (I am 51 now.) I so look forward to it every week.
There was a saying in Jesus’ day. “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.” It meant, may you walk so close behind your teacher that you will be covered in the dust from his walking. We all need some more intensely focused spiritual days and times we spend with God. I hope you do that with church attendance, Bible Studies, prayer times, maybe some fasting and times you get away to be by yourself with God.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Rom 12:1-2
You might give it a try this Lent season. You don’t have to be Catholic to recognize a season to focus on Jesus. What better time then the time leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Show your love by making a sacrifice.
Dear Christian, how close behind Christ are you walking? May you be covered by the dust of your Rabbi.