Thought of the week
There are two options a priest can use when distributing the ashes on Ash Wednesday. The traditional is ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ and the more recent ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’. Both are meant to disturb and challenge us to make a response.
This year I chose ‘Remember you are dust…’ Not just because we’ve had a lot of funerals recently, and my own can’t be too far off, but because all of us need to face the obvious that we shall die someday. In response to the greatest temptation we have, which is to put off to tomorrow what needs to be addressed today, the Church says boldly: ‘Now is a favourable time; this is the day of salvation’.
St Mark was writing for the first Christians. They were being persecuted by the Emperor Nero, being thrown to the wild beasts in the Roman Coliseum. So Mark writes about Jesus being surrounded by wild beasts, while being tempted in the desert to choose another path, in order to avoid the human wild beasts who will otherwise crucify him. He stood firm. So did the Roman martyrs.
Lent can be wilderness experience. We have to confront demons outside and within us. But we are not alone, as the Church at the beginning of Lent takes Jesus with us into the desert. Unlike him, however, we are all tempted; we all fail; we all sin. The Gospel challenges us to change our minds about the way we think, change our hearts about the Gospel we ignore, and change our ways about habits of sin.
Lent reminds us of our need to begin again, facing the enemy within us. Let us call upon the Lord to give us the grace to achieve this once more.