Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. –2 Corinthians 6:2 NAB
A few years ago, on Ash Wednesday, I attended a noon mass at a downtown church near our local university campus. As I sat down a small group of students sat in the row with me.
We smiled, and as the mass began, I could tell that they were there for the first time. I help the young girl next to me find the opening hymn and the readings for mass and she did the same down the row, as everyone nodded to me their thanks. As I looked around the church, I could tell that they weren’t the only non-Catholics at mass that day.
When the time arrived to distribute the ashes, I stood and they followed me down the aisle to the distributor in our section.
“Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return,” the words spoken and each student received their ashes. They made their way back to the pew and mass continued.
At the conclusion of mass, I had the opportunity to speak with each of them.
“Are you Catholic?” I asked the first young lady.
“No, she replied, I am a non-denominational Christian.”
Of the four students only one was a marginal Catholic, having been baptized as an infant but raised in a family that didn’t practice their faith. The two remaining were agnostic.
“What brought you to mass today,” I inquired?
“The ashes,” they responded in unison!
“What about the ashes,” I asked.
They explained, “there is just something about the concept of lent that is very appealing to us. The dying to self, the giving up of something we take for granted, things that others might not have, the idea of a period of time where we reflect on our lives and what are purpose in life is, that is very appealing.”
Wow, I thought! Young people are always searching, searching for some meaning to their lives, searching for answers to life’s biggest questions. And, you know, if they are going to find these answers, then this is a great place to start!
For forty days, we are asked to die to self, rend our hearts and return to The Lord, and to pray, fast and give alms.
We sat in church and talked for a half hour after mass. We discussed the great homily the celebrant gave, and we talked about lent, ashes, and what lies ahead, the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As they left the church, they thanked me. In return, I thanked them for restoring my faith in their generation. At least these four, really got the message.
There is power in those ashes!
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