Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Sins and shortcomings

Sins and shortcomings
Ash Wednesday and Lent are opportunities for transformation and renewal

by Sister Laura Zelten

Many people, even lifelong Catholics, wrongly assume that Ash Wednesday is a holy day of obligation;    it’s not, but more of a “holy day of invitation.” 

Even though Ash Wednesday is not a required Holy Day, it serves as an invitation to embark on a Lenten spiritual journey towards the fullness of life. The Gospel of Jesus and the symbolic gesture of covering oneself in dust and ashes during Mass attracts many devoted followers. The ashes, made from the palms from the prior year's Holy Week, is a biblical symbol of repentance and mourning.

Ash Wednesday is a powerful reminder of our mortality and a call to repentance and renewal. The ashes we receive on our forehead are a symbol of our humility and penance, and a sign of our commitment to follow Christ more closely. This solemn day marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, when we seek to deepen our relationship with God and grow in holiness.

For many, Ash Wednesday  is the opportunity to publicly display their faith. For others, it is a deeply spiritual and personal experience, a time to reflect on the meaning of life and the reality of death. It is a day to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings, and to ask for God's mercy and forgiveness. By receiving the ashes, we are reminded of the love and mercy of God, who desires to heal and restore us, and to lead us to eternal life.

As we embark on this Lenten journey, let us remember that it is not just a time of sacrifice and self-denial, but also a time of transformation and renewal. Let us embrace the challenge of growing in faith, hope, and charity, and let us seek to be instruments of God's grace and peace in the world.

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