Lent begins this week, with Ash Wednesday.
One of the oldest traditions in the Church calendar, the season reminds us to:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” — Genesis 3:19
The Lenten Season is the 40 days prior to Easter, not including Sundays. It ends on Maundy Thursday, March 24.
In many faith traditions, ashes are viewed as a symbol of penance, and the ashes of Ash Wednesday help us be more humble and sacrificial in spirit. Ashes are applied in the shape of a cross on our foreheads to symbolize humility and to remind us of death.
Generally, with one stroke of the ashes, the first words are spoken,
“Remember that you are dust,”
Then with the second line of ashes, forming a cross,
“and to dust you will return.”
On one Ash Wednesday, the minister recited these words as he applied the ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” And then he added, “Remember that you are loved.”
By whom, I thought? Loved by God? By Jesus? By him?
The penitence of Lent is important and a good time for introspection, but neither Lent nor anything that happens in a church should distract us from the underlying fact that we are loved.
As strong as the steel rail of a subway system and as powerful as the core of the atom, nothing is as important as the Love of our Creator.
Too many churches let too many messages distract them, and non-Christians in turn miss the simple message.
We are loved.
Yes, we will return to dust and all the world will pass away, but we are loved.
As we travel the six weeks of Lent towards Resurrection Sunday, we are encouraged to consider our relationship with God and our relationship with others. We sacrifice — historically, people have given up meat during Lent, but that eventually gave way to sacrificing meat just on Fridays — and when we think about out sacrifices, we are encouraged to turn our thoughts towards God.
And remember, you are loved.