Ash Wednesday: We are back!

Posted on February 22, 2023 in: Articles

Welcome to the revived Catholic Leader. We are back – and we are better! Or at least we intend and hope to be.

We’ve been anticipating this revival on Ash Wednesday for several weeks. For some time it has seemed an appropriate day to get back into life’s fray. One of the things we learned during the height of the Covid epidemic was that we can’t rely on institutions, even the church, to provide all the nourishment our faith requires. When churches closed, in-person worship and reception of the sacraments was not a possibility, our need for spiritual nourishment persisted – even grew in the dearth of institutional replenishment.

The lesson: We have to look after our own spiritual well-being.

That’s always been a subtext of Lent. We are called to take responsibility, more intentionally than before, for our spiritual development, specifically in the form of praying, fasting and giving alms.

Selecting something to “give up” during Lent is an experience all Catholics in the developed world share. Recall our annual Lenten dilemma? We wanted to give up something significant, really do good and make us feel good about ourselves – and maybe draw the praise of our teacher. But we didn’t want to pick anything so onerous that it beat us up really bad – or, dear God – drove us to falter. What then? Eternal damnation ... or at least a dreadfully embarrassing moment in the confessional?

Later many of us were encouraged to pivot 180 degrees and to focus instead of finding something positive to do during Lent. Perhaps pray more, fast more or share more of our time, money or both. Of course, in this new context the dilemma persists. We wanted – perhaps still want, to resolve to do something significant, and yet not choose something that will hurt too much or cause us to stumble.

That quandary alone – whether it is over what to give up or what to do extra – is an occasion for healthy spiritual reflection. What should I do? What can I do? How can I assure myself that I will be faithful to my commitment? The answers are secondary. The primary point is that at least in some regards and to some extent I am driving my own spiritual bus, not just following – or failing to follow – the direction of others.

That does not imply that we are not influenced by others, peers and designated authorities alike. It was really apparent in my schoolboy days. I wanted to avoid the scorn of Sister Whomever and I wanted to build my status with my classmates, especially the female ones. Now I want to please God, and owing to the efforts of many others, I have some idea of what that entails.

No matter how any of this is resolved for each of us, when we begin to consider it, we are beginning to take ownership of our relationship with our Creator and Savior. Welcome to Lent.

As you experience taking greater responsibility for what Jesus called the two key relationships in our lives – with God and neighbor – we want to walk with you, offering information, encouragement, affirmation, perhaps even some guidance (although, of course, that is up to you).

Our hope – our bias, to be sure – is to help you, our neighbors, to better live, love and lead like Jesus. Since that’s pretty much the point of Lent, we figure today is a pretty good time to get back to work.

We’ll be seeing you soon … wishing always that your journey from “dust to dust” is a rewarding one for you and for the world.

- Owen Phelps, Director, Yeshua Institute