up from the ashes
“Rend your hearts.” —Joel 2:13
Today, the Catholic Church marks our heads with an ashen cross. Ashes connote humility and death. Ashes are what is left over after something is burned. They are commonly associated with the residue of destruction and death (Est 4:3; Jb 2:8). We die to ourselves in the self-denial of Lent. The ashes of our desires are what remain after this death.
After a forest fire, the forest floor is covered with ashes. The ashes are the residue of death and destruction. However, the ashes also are the beginning of new life for the forest. The fire clears away the accumulated litter on the forest floor which had been smothering seedlings which struggled to grow every year. Now that the fire has burned away this litter, the ashes serve as a sort of mulch which protects and nourishes the new seedlings. Thus, the ashes enable the cycle of new life to begin.
We are like that. The Lenten ashes of our repentance (see Jb 42:6) and dying to self smother our selfish desires, enabling and nourishing new life to blossom within us.
What new life does the Lord want to spring up as a result of your dying to self this Lent? (see Is 61:3) Will it be a call to a new vocation, the conception of a new child, a new holiness, the courage to witness publicly for Jesus, or joining a small Christian community? Repent! Die to yourself (Lk 9:23). Let Jesus create His new, abundant life (Jn 10:10) in you.
Prayer: Father, may I crucify my flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). May I always be fertile and fruitful for You.
Promise: “Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you.” —Mt 6:4
Praise: John receives his ashes early on Ash Wednesday and makes a silent witness for Christ by wearing them throughout the day at his downtown job.
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: "In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat for the publication One Bread, One Body covering the time period from February 01/2022 through March 31, 2022 Reverend Steve J. Angi, Chancellor, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio June 16, 2021"
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