Friday, February 19, 2010

A Reflection on Ash Wednesday

Every Ash Wednesday, the Franciscan church I attend, begins its annual fundraising appeal. So I was standing in the rear of one of the chapels, passing out appeal envelopes to people as they were leaving the church. As I stood there, I was observing the people coming in to receive their ashes. I saw men and women coming in dressed in business suits; street people in their worn coats. I saw young women coming in with their children; elderly slowly making their way forward. There were white and black; Asian and Hispanic. Some were blessed with easy lives, while others have struggled. Yet, all of them heard the same admonition: “Remember, thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I was reminded of something St. Francis of Assisi wrote in his Fifth Admonition: “What have you to be proud of? If you were so clever and learned that you knew everything and could speak every language, so that the things of heaven were an open book to you, still you could not boast of that. Any of the devils knew more about the things of heaven, and knows more about the things of earth, than any human being, even one who might have received from God a special revelation of the highest wisdom. If you were the most handsome and the richest man in the world, and could work wonders and drive out devils, all that would be something extrinsic to you; it would not belong to you and you could not boast of it. But there is one thing of which we can boast; we can boast of our humiliations (cf.2 Cor. 12: 15) and in taking up daily the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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