Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday (aka "Weird Wednesday")

Today was the first day in I-can't-remember-how-long that I received ashes on my forehead. My mom reminded me to "Wear your ashes proudly." and so, I'm trying. Actually, I'm standing on the corner of 2nd and E Streets trying to decide if I should walk against the light or not. Can people see the smudge on my forehead? If they can, maybe I should stay here - I doubt jaywalking would look favorably on my Christian witness. But if they can't...

Only one person has asked about my ashes - the girl across the street who is my niece's age. Of course, it didn't start out as a question, but as an observation: "Sara, you have a black smudge on your forehead."

"Yes. They're ashes."

"Uh, why?"

"Because today is Ash Wednesday and Catholics get ashes on their forehead to mark the beginning of the 40 days before Easter."

I neglected to mention that this period was called Lent - but I don't know that that would have made any difference as she had already checked out and skipped off. (I guess that also makes it doubtful that I performed a Spiritual Work of Mercy of "Instucting the ignorant". Darn.)

So I'm thinking about this exchange as I continue to walk home (after waiting for the light to change first, of course) and what gets me is both my neighbor's acceptance and "meh"-ness towards my ashes. At first, she was curious, but then she got her answer, it ceased to be a curiosity, and she moved on. Did she not find it bizarre? I feel like if I hadn't grown up Catholic I would find it strange and want to know more.

Or maybe she did find it bizarre - but no less bizarre than any other number of things thrown at her in this day and age. I mean, kittens on the internet is a thing. Slow TV is a thing. Bizarre.

If anything, that should be an encouragement to "Wear your ashes proudly." Life today is so strange that you may not stick out as oddly as you think you will.  But maybe we worry too much about how we look?  The mass the littles and I attended this afternoon was packed. Packed! And of course, it was just one of the many masses that happened today in the 4 parishes in my hometown. Yet, while I was out and about a few hours later, I didn't seem to see anyone else with ashes on their foreheads. Bummer. I would have liked to show some solidarity with my Catholic brothers and sisters. We would have smiled and nodded to each other, "Nice ashes."  "Yours too - they actually looks like a cross! Rock on!"

Oh well, I will just choose to believe that either
1) there weren't any other Catholics to run into where I was downtown or
2) everyone took Jesus's words in Matthew 6:1 to mean that they should clean their ashes off before continuing on with their day.  I suppose that would be legitimate. But I feel like we Christians believe some pretty bizarre things, so it should only make sense that we follow it up with some bizarre actions. We say we believe there is a God, and that we are not God - that we came from dust and to dust we shall return - so why not walk around with that reminder for a day?

When the ashes were placed on my head, the minister spoke these words over me: "Repent and believe the Good News." I confess that sometimes I have a hard time remembering what the Good News is exactly. Today's reminder was that it is Good to do the bizarre: to take wee ones to Mass, to believe that my Savior was present to me in the bread and wine, to wear ashes on my head as a sign of my mortality. This stuff is what's Really Real. These choices have positive impacts that last longer than the moment they happen in... at least, that's also what we believe.

And that's bizarre too.

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