Tomorrow, as all Catholics with a clue know, is Ash Wednesday which, in light of the absurdity raining on our Faith from the present powers that be, takes on an even more significant and profound tone. Ash Wednesday is about a number of key concepts which clash with the society we live in and the leaders that society has enabled.
1. Mortality…….First of all, Ash Wednesday is about reminding us of our own mortality; the fact that, regardless of whether we are a king or a pauper, a president or a plumber, a saint or a sinner, our powers are limited. Mortality, then, is about more than the certainty that we will each die someday. Beyond that, it is about the sheer temporary nature of our existence, relevance, significance, and importance in the temporal plane. Not only do our very lives have a limit on this earth but, just as importantly, everything we foolishly grasp onto throughout our journey on this rock has its limits as well. As much as we all would like to fool ourselves, we are not and have never been the masters of our domain because, for one thing, we are neither masters nor is this our domain!
This society preaches a very different view. It deludes us into accepting the fantasy that it is all about us; what we want, how we feel, what makes us comfortable, what is easiest, what feels good, and what fits our “domain”. Ironically, the core of this view that “we are it” is the notion that “this is it” and that there are no eternal consequences for our actions and beliefs, nothing beyond this life we have. By brazenly declaring themselves qualified to say that there is nothing beyond this existence, Atheists irrationally propose the transcendence of their own limitations. By sheepishly passing on the discussion altogether, agnostics replace the atheists’ arrogance with cowardice. Ultimately, while we all must obviously function in the temporal, earthly plane, we must choose whether or not our aspirations will be chained to that plane or aspire to a more eternal, sacred one. If our aspirations go beyond this earth, then we must necessarily recognize and accept the limitations of this existence, and the mortality of all that enables that existence. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” is not exactly what this society is about.
2. Accepting Responsibility and Confessing Faults
Pointing fingers has become a national pastime. Nobody accepts responsibility, their participation, in anything wrong, unsuccessful, or foolish. We have a leadership which is driving our national bus off a cliff while pointing at everyone but the driver. Everybody spews lists of reasons why x and y cannot lead us while ignoring the catalogs of reasons why O should not lead us any more. We have an emperor with no clothes dictating our moral fashion. A society which ignores its faults, supported by its enabling media, is the first to mock, criticize, dictate, and marginalize others. How can we confess our sins when we do not even accept fault, much less sin, much less responsibility for anything we do? We have turned our backs on what is true, critical, and central in our struggle to render meaning to our lives, content to admire ourselves in the mirror of our own self-obsession rather than humbly and contritely conceding our own limitations and need for healing ourselves and others. We can all use a little more modesty and self-reflection. If we bother to look at ourselves with more critical sincerity before we point at others, we might be able to more often turn that pointed hand into a helping one.
3. Wearing our Faith on Our Sleeve
We have witnessed what this society thinks of open displays of faith. Tim Tebow’s courageous demonstrations of faith were met with anger, resentment, mockery, ignorance, and outright rage by diverse people and sources. From those whose lives embody anything but love, modesty, humility, unselfishness, kindness, compassion, sincerity, or respect, such displays of objection against a young man living his faith are deplorable. A society which finds no objection in vulgar, sacrilegious, superficial, hypocritical, and false displays dares to dictate, mock, and judge the displays of people of faith. A society which embodies “out of sight, out of mind” now equally represents “out of its mind, out of its sight’.
If you are Catholic, wear your ashes proudly tomorrow. Know that you are witnessing Christ and His ultimate sacrifice. Understand that you are preaching His message of humility, contrition, unselfish love, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. Every time someone mocks or is amused by that cross on your forehead, offer those arrows to God. Whenever someone stares at you with a puzzled look, return that look with a smile. If someone asks you to explain, do so with pride and passion and, if someone should inform you that you have some dirt on your forehead, answer “It is there because my Lord is always there, for I put God first and let everything else fall into place.”
Copyright, 2011 Gabriel Garnica