Rising from the Ashes: Weekly Message for 03-05-2019

Dear Friends in Christ,

Ash Wednesday is one of the oddest days of the liturgical year.

It’s not a holy day of obligation. Yet in some places the number of Catholics who show up in church rivals the crowds that appear at Christmas and Easter Masses.

There’s something about those ashes on the forehead that burns deep in the psyche of even lukewarm Catholics.

The ashes speak to our identity as mortals and as sinners in need of redemption.

There is something sobering about getting smeared with gritty ashes while being told, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”

It’s a reality check par excellence. Maybe that’s why people eagerly line up for it.

The ashes aren’t meant to be an end in themselves, of course. They help signal the start of Lent, a season that beckons us to special sacrifice and prayer in reparation for our sins.

Ideally, the season brings us poor, weak creatures into a deeper encounter with our Lord Jesus.

The Gospels tell of many such encounters. Memorable among them is the one with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).

Culturally and otherwise, the woman and Jesus seem like polar opposites. Yet from their encounter radiates a deep message of hope and redemption that can cheer the heart of any sinner.

To help start Lent the right way (along with the ashes), you might want to look at “Living Water: A Lenten Retreat Guide on Christ’s Encounter with the Samaritan Woman.” Consider purchasing the Retreat Guide Booklet so you can bring it with you to Church and spend a few minutes reading these meditations. 

Wherever you are in your spiritual life, this Retreat Guide might help you rise above the ashes of past and present mistakes.

That’s one reason why Our Lord came into the world. He lifted up the Samaritan woman. He can do the same for all of us.

In Christ,

Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor

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  1. My husband and I every year attend Ash Wednesday evening mass 5:30 pm
    This past Ash Wednesday, we encountered the church parking lot packed no parking left, so now lines of cars trying to find a place to park to get inside the church. As we ran into the church I see Father looking out the entrance side window by the doors, when I opened the door I see him and said “ Oh My Gosh you would think a rock concert was going on. So many people. This brought Hope & Joy to see the crowds coming to Ash Wednesday mass.

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