While discussing our birthdays, my nearly-5-year-old son exclaimed, “I thought mine was after sissy’s!”
I clarified: “It is, but hers is this coming Thursday and yours in next Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.”
He cautiously asked, “What’s Ash Wednesday?”
His older sister chimed in to explain about the ashes and that it reminds us we are dust and will be dust after we die. (Yay catholic schools!)
Immediately, my son began to cry uncontrollably.
My husband and I asked what was wrong, but he didn’t want to say. So, I picked him up and started to rock him, asking him what about Ash Wednesday made him cry.
“I don’t want my birthday to be Ash Wednesday! I’m scared of Ash Wednesday!”
While I was unable to figure out exactly what about Ash Wednesday scared him, I was able to calm him down by telling him that he didn’t have to get ashes if he didn’t want to and that we could celebrate his birthday on Mardi Gras, instead, if he preferred. That seemed to cheer him up enough to make it through evening prayers and bedtime.
As comical as this little episode was, it made me think about my own hesitation about the upcoming Lenten season.
How many times do I look at Lent with a sigh and a grimace because it calls for sacrifices on my part? I don’t want to limit my food menu to non-meats on Friday. I don’t want to (insert thing here), key phrase being “I don’t want”.
That’s exactly the point of Lent.
Not only to remind us about our mortality but also to give us the opportunity to recenter our lives around Christ. Sacrifices force me to think of ‘me’ less and focus on my need for Christ’s grace to carry me through life.
Yes, even small things like giving up chocolate or cokes can do this. One of our most famous and beloved Saints, Saint Therese of Lisieux, is known for her “little way,” which shows us that small sacrifices can have a big impact if done with the correct frame of mind.
Through sacrifice we come to terms with our limitations as humans.
Lent helps us to recall that it is not “by bread alone” that we live but by the Grace of God working in our lives when our humanity leaves us helpless.