The Word, Ash Wednesday:
Today we mark the day before Ash Wednesday as a traditional day of final celebration before we begin the more solemn weeks of our annual season of penitence and personal conversion called Lent. As Lent has been marked by Christians since the early centuries of the Church we see this as a time of grace. It is also a very special time for our folks in RCIA as our catechumens and candidates - all preparing for their final walk towards the reception of the sacraments of initiation and their profession of faith as we welcome them as our newest Catholic/Christians. So, its a time for all of us and how we live this Lent does indeed make a difference in how we live the rest of the year as missionary disciples of the Lord.
People seem to be more health conscience now so I'm not sure that the tradition of giving up candy is as meaningful. But if that's truly a sacrifice for you, by all means. Certainly to refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Friday's of Lent is not only required but even more so an important united sacrifice that we make as Church. To refrain from food on those days, except for what is necessary, is an even greater self-imposed penance that can help us to refocus on our Christian priorities. The Church has no requirement about eating fish on Friday's during Lent, just that we refrain from meat. Its amazing how many of our fast food establishments seem to offer new fish sandwiches during this time. That's fine to eat seafood but it does not mean that going to a fine seafood restaurant and to enjoy a crab stuffed salmon dinner is some sort of sacrifice - hardly. So, if its a Friday during Lent maybe it's time to substitute that for a more simple meal.
So, pray more often, be more charitable and self-sacrificing for the sake of another, be more ready to forgive and to will the good towards another out of Christ-like love, make peace with someone you may not be at peace with, and whatever creative sincere sacrifice you may offer all helps us to make room for God in our life. Go to confession no matter how long it has been, participate in the stations of the cross on Friday's or other Lenten opportunities at your parish such as a parish mission or retreat. Attend morning Mass at least one additional day each week or more if possible. Most parishes have a morning Mass early enough on your way to work or if not, then maybe a neighboring parish does. We have such rich spiritual treasures always available but we need to use them.
So, on this final day, "Fat Tuesday," we prepare. Traditionally the term fat Tuesday refers to cleaning out the cupboard, the refrigerator of dairy products and fatty foods but it can also be a reference to cleaning out our souls of all that is sinful.
God's peace to all of us during this holy season and may we be open to receive the graces offered as we journey towards the glory of Easter.
you called us forth from the dust of the earth'
you claimed us for Christ in the waters of Baptism.
Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days
bearing the mark of ashes,
and bless our journey through the desert of Lent
to the font of rebirth.
May our fasting be hunger for justice;
our alms, a making of peace;
our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.
All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus,
for in his Cross you proclaim your love
forever and ever.
(Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers)