There is a strange combination of calendar events on 14 February. It is the day when emotions are subsumed into an economic effort to force unwilling men to spend insufficient funds to make demanding partners happy. But enough of that for now!*
The real love story, for 14th Feb, is the love which led Jesus to yield his life to the Father’s will and undergo the forty days of temptation in the wilderness.
The tradition of being daubed with ashes reflects a biblical behaviour of “repenting in dust and ashes”. You can take it or leave it, (and I am sure many of you leave it!), but at least it is a small act of witness that you are taking God’s call to repent seriously.
If only repentance was as easy as getting a dirty forehead!
No ashes are offered in St. Ignatius’, Carryduff on Ash Wednesday, but an act of witness you can make is to leave your home and gather with others to reflect on God’s call to repent: to turn to him with prayer, fasting and generosity, to turn from sin and self-seeking attitudes, and to turn inwards as you begin a period of self examination in your self-imposed wilderness.
Mind you, * after some of the outlandish ways promoted to express romantic ideals, I reckon a bit of self-denial is not without its place in this modern crazy world!