Ash Wednesday is an invitation to humble ourselves.
The psalmist wrote that, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). The remembrance that we are dust comes in the context of God’s compassion for us. We are never scolded for being frail. It is God’s tenderness toward us that frees us to confess our need of him. Because our heavenly Father is gentle and patient, long-suffering and understanding, abounding in compassion, we humble ourselves, like little children. And it is here we realize that as little children, we are the ones to whom Jesus said the Kingdom belongs.
Ash Wednesday is an invitation to confess our sins.
Ashes in the Bible were a sign of sorrow and mourning (2 Sam. 13:19, Is. 61:3, Jer. 6:26, Ez. 27:30). Covering yourself or marking yourself with ashes was also an act of repentance and of turning toward God’s face. Daniel says that he “turned [his] face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan. 9:3). Jesus uses ashes symbolically to speak of repentance (Matthew 11:21). So, on Ash Wednesday we remember not only our frailty, but also our failure. We come before the God who is not only the Creator, but who is also the Redeemer.
Ash Wednesday is an invitation to remember God’s mercy and faithful love.
Even before we knew how to call on HIs name, God was calling us. While we were still sinners, St. Paul wrote, Christ died for us. It is not our repentance that persuades God to be merciful to us; it is God’s mercy that leads us to repentance. What we find when we humble ourselves before the Lord, is that Jesus is already bending low, on the ground with us. And as He rises, He raises us up with Him.
New Life Downtown is hosting an Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday, February 26th, from 7pm-8:15pm at Palmer High School. All are welcome.