Ash Wednesday and Lent

Ash Wednesday is the first day in the Christian season of Lent. It begins about 40 days before Easter. The 40 days represents Jesus’ time in the desert before the start of his public ministry. It also represents the 40 years that the Hebrews spent in the desert searching for the Promised Land. Ashes have been used for thousands of years as a sign of repentance. We don’t wear ashes to proclaim our holiness but to acknowledge that we sin and are in need of repentance and renewal. By putting ashes on our forehead, we are reminded that we should be embarrassed about some of the things we do. Having the mark in the shape of the cross shows that we believe that Jesus can make things better.

This Lent step up and do what is right – make a decision to “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”. Follow the way of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Here’s a list of things you might consider doing:

  • Make a commitment to read the Sunday readings before you go to Mass
  • Don’t have time to read all 3? Just read the Gospel
  • Make a commitment to try something new spiritually – eg Eucharistic Adoration
  • Think about what you usually spend your money on – new clothes? iTunes? eating out? Pick one type of expenditure, fast from it and give the money to charity.
  • Go to a weekday mass once during the week
  • If you don’t have a cross in your house, buy one and put it in your room
  • Read the Gospel of Mark – it’s the shortest! The cross, a traditional Lenten symbol, plays a central role.
  • Attend the Stations of the Cross
  • Eat fish on Fridays during Lent
  • Turn off your iPod or the radio on the way to school – the silence may be hard at first, but you may become more in tune with the world around you
  • Buy a book of daily reflections and keep it by your bed
  • Think about a habit that has kept you from who God wants you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.
  • Fast from more than just food
  • Fast from cruel comments about others
  • Make a point of learning about a particular social issue eg: racism, AIDS, child poverty etc
  • Pray for somebody – a close friend or someone who you see on the street that you think is in need
  • Remind yourself of the baptismal commitment to renounce sin
  • As you fall asleep at night, repeat the mantra ‘Lord Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.’
  • Read the works of mercy as Jesus describes them in Matthew 25 ‘For I was hungry . . .’
  • Make a list of all the excesses in your life. Which ones could you do without?
  • Attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation