“Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Those were the words I was told to say, as I made the sign of the cross on the foreheads of parishioners who came forth at the Ash Wednesday service. I had not distributed ashes in over 10 years, and I felt both honored and nervous beforehand. How little did I know what awaited me!
As I moved my bangs aside for Deacon Moise to give me ashes, I lowered my eyes as an obedient child, listening to the words. Then, he lowered his head for ashes. I dipped my thumb into the glass container of ashes, and placed a cross on his forehead, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
God’s faithful formed lines to come forth to be marked with a sign of repentance, marking the first day of Lent 2022. We had just made it through 2 years of the Covid-19 pandemic, and now gathered as an assembly again to begin this holy season. Most did not have facemasks, braving the world again. We came forth to be given a sign on our foreheads to be mindful of the Gospel in our everyday lives, indeed for others to see as well.
As we feel personally called to live the Gospel, we don’t forget to live as community, encouraging one another with the teachings of Jesus. We accompany one another, as our friends and family call us to do. We are not alone on this journey. And, that’s what I felt, as I placed ashes in the form of a cross on each person who came forth. “You and I believe in the Gospel.” “You and I go forth with ashes to proclaim this.” “You and I are companions on the way.” “Jesus calls us together.”
As we now approach the end of this Lenten Season, may we be united in our call to faith. If we have put off entering more deeply into our journey, we start today. If we have grown closer to Christ, we give thanks!
The mark we received on Ash Wednesday still calls us. On this Passion Sunday, from Ashes to Palms, we enter this Holy Week.
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”