Graphic Shamelessly Cribbed from Concord Pastor
UPDATE: Readings from Mass for Ash Wednesday are podcasted, here.
In my never-ending quest to restore a useful awareness over recent, rather bland, instruction, I repost a bit of this:
A few years ago a deacon pal and I were discussing ashes. He was helping to distribute them for the first time in his parish and was trying to decide if he would use the old smudge-formula, “Remember you are dust and into dust you shall return,” or if he would forego that for the “new, improved, feel-good” formula, “Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel.”
I could only tell him that I didn’t need to be treated like a delicate flower with some benign advice about believing the Gospel. “If we’re Christians and we’re there receiving ashes, isn’t it pretty much a given that we’re already believing the Gospel? No, please, say it the old way – it’s a pithy reminder that we should ask ourselves – if we die tomorrow – have we been living our lives to right purpose? We hear nothing but happy platitudes about our specialness from the rest of the world (and too many lecterns) every single day. For this one day, let us face some cold, hard truth.”
Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, newly-named, Archbishop of New York City says it better:
“Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms.” – (source)
Then there are these words from slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, which challenge all of us, from far-right to far-left, and are well worth pondering for the whole 40 days:
“A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a Word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, what kind of gospel is that? Preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed do not light up the world!”
That’s something to really think about, not simply from a social perspective but – much more importantly – from a personal perspective. Consider where the gospel is unsettling for you, and why that might be. Is it because Christ challenges you out of your comfort zones and certainties?
I did not watch the Oscar telecast last week, but I happened to flip channels in time to see the evangelical atheist Bill Maher using his stage time both to grouse about his documentary not being nominated and to proselytize for his belief system and against the “silly gods” he so dislikes. I couldn’t help thinking, “if a Christian entertainer took every opportunity before a mic to proclaim his beliefs, people might justifiably get tired of it. When atheists like Maher can’t resist the opportunity to push his beliefs, why isn’t his incessant proselytizing considered equally as tiresome, rude, inappropriate, insensitive and offensive? Why is it not even seen as proselytizing, when it clearly is? And if he is so sure of what he does not believe, why does it haunt him so? He doth protest too much.”
One answer to that, of course, is that whenever one encounters something that reveals the worst of oneself to oneself, one tries to push that thing as far away as one can. We all do that; it’s human nature. But Dinesh D’Souza gets even closer to it:
It’s not as if the atheist objects to the resurrection or the parting of the sea; rather, it is Christian morality to which atheists object, particularly Christian moral prohibitions in the area of sex. The atheist looks at all of Christianity’s “thou shalt nots”—homosexuality is bad; divorce is bad; adultery is bad; premarital sex is bad—and then looks at his own life and says, “If these things are really bad, then I’m a bad guy. But I’m not a bad guy; I’m a great guy. I must thus reinterpret or (preferably) abolish all of these accusatory teachings that are putting me in a bad light.”
Yes, disciplining oneself is the hardest thing, isn’t it?
I haven’t decided yet if it is easier to believe – as the atheists charge – or if it is easier not to believe. I used to think it was easier not to believe, and that may be so. But when I see someone like Maher, who seems so hunted and haunted that he cannot stop talking about it, then I think it might be harder not to believe.
And that’s something to think about at Lent, too. What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What part does choice play in belief; do you choose to believe?
The Gift is freely given. One can freely walk away from it. If one cannot do that, cannot walk away without making sure he drags away as many others as he can, well, then that’s not freedom.
Deacon Greg’s MUST READ homily: We just can’t live without ashes!
Note: If you’re in a tug-of-war – feeling drawn to faith, but struggling – confession doesn’t hurt.
If you need a focus, here is one. Praying for the president is always a good practice.
And if you hate to say the rosary alone, you can say it with me.
Check back for continuous “updates” as I find Ash Wednesday stuff to link to:
Deacon Greg has some really excellent and unexpected links in his roundup – check it out.
Concord Pastor: Excellent stuff on fasting and I really like his pretty graphics. I’d like to blogroll him, if blogroller ever gets back up!
The Summit Dominican Nuns: They’re talking about a Patristic Reading Plan that might interest you.
Lenten Reading Suggestions
Fr. Dwight Longenecker Learning the faith
Zoe Romanowsky: Likes Ash Wednesday!
Happy Catholic: A Lenten prayer for Catholics in the blogosphere
Paragraph Farmer: Pitches in with some Peter Kreeft
Conversion Diary: Why Life is better when you’re open to Life
Kansas Catholic: church sign dialogue
How about a few polls, just for fun?