Traditionally, Ash Wednesday and Lent have been associated with Catholicism, but that no longer holds true. More Christians are taking advantage of the “forty days” (it’s really 46) to prepare for Easter.
Lent is a time to fast, pray, give alms. Many Catholics will give something up. Sweets, alcohol, meat, cursing, something that is supposed to be sacrificial and difficult. We perform acts of penance, and frequently take part in public prayer, such as the Stations of the Cross, which most parishes will have weekly, often before a Lenten meal.
All this is meant to spiritually lead us into the desert, to prepare us to really be able to celebrate on Easter Sunday with a cleansed heart, open totally to Jesus in the Resurrection. It should also open us to our fellow men on this journey, particularly those in need.
If you have never thought much about Ash Wednesday and Lent, I invite you to consider making it a part of your life for the next six weeks. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself as a Christian. If you are in a dry spot, a time of struggle or you are stagnant and stuck, seemingly unable to grow and move in your faith, observing a penitential Lenten season might just be what your spiritual life needs.
Should you wish to participate in an Ash Wednesday service, you do not have to be Catholic. You will be welcome at any parish, and you can receive the ashes. As the priest, deacon, or perhaps layperson makes the cross on your forehead they will say “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Also, there are many Lenten services in Catholic parishes and I cannot think of any one of them where a non Catholic would be uncomfortable or especially, unwelcome. No one is going to try to strong arm you or harass you. You may participate as much or as little as you wish, the only thing to know, which I am sure is common knowledge, is not to receive the Eucharist if you are not Catholic.
Many denominations now have services on Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday, and I believe there are weekly services available through Lent at many churches. Check out your own church’s schedules or call around to find out about visiting a church that has services or perhaps even a Friday fish fry. I promise Easter will be much more joyful and meaningful for having walked those 40 days with Christ.
Reading 1 Jl 2:12-18
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.
Please note, this is not a political post, it is an invitation to delve deeper into your faith, or your questions about God if you are not a Christian. If this is not your cup of tea, please pass by. I won’t let this post, or any of the following Lenten and Easter posts, become a place to argue denominations or beliefs.
If you have further questions, or really just have to complain, do it through email. I will delete those comments who break the rules and moderate the repeat offenders. I am sorry to have to put these comments here, but it is that or give up the Christmas and Easter posts.