By this time of the year most of us have inundated by Christmas stuff. Shopping, cards, decorations. I see these houses with so many lights and do-dads that you can hardly get in the front door. I don’t think even Santa will be able to navigate through all those lights. Christmas is not presents nor cakes nor chestnuts roasting on an open fire or even family members coming from all over. Christmas is not even church services where we all go to enormous lengths to say "ta-da" to this holy time. I love all these things, but they aren’t the real Christmas.
This is why we came—not to be reminded of our finitude. God knows we feel it in our bones, and some of us in our backs and legs and arthritic hands. We come kneeling and hoping that something or someone will whisper forgiveness so that we might start again. Believing or at least hoping that these 40 days that lead to the cross might just touch something deep in our hearts.
The priest comes and dabs his finger into the ashes.
Before his assassination Archbishop Romero of El Salvador had a practice
of reading at the Eucharist the names of members of his church who had
either ‘disappeared’—or died the previous week. As the prayers of the
community were spoken—the names were be lifted up one after another.
People today often speak of a world that has changed dramatically. The
old pillars of morality, values and truth seem to have shifted.
Newspapers and other periodicals are disappearing. Technology has
changed our lives. There is an anger in the land. Many, worried about
jobs and the future, are scared, tired and frustrated.