The Urgent Theme of Ash Wednesday

There is a great sense of urgency in the readings for Ash Wednesday. It is as if some great event is looming that could be awesome, but only if the warning is heeded. Pondering the last year, this may make us cringe, “Oh no! What else?!”  But the great event that looms is far more significant and, if we are ready, it will be glorious. Consider this selection from the first reading (Joel 2:12-18):

“Even now,” says the LORD, “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.”

Sound the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people! Assemble the elders; gather the children, even the infants at the breast.

Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people!”

And consider this passage from the second reading (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2):

We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.! Behold, now is the very acceptable time.

What is this awesome yet potentially catastrophic event about which we are warned? The Church supplies the answer as she distributes ashes:

Remember, O Man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

In other words, you’re going to die, and you don’t get to say when, where, or how. So, what are you doing to get ready to appear before the judgment seat of Christ? Mother Church is figuratively shaking us and saying, “Do you understand how significant this is and how serious you ought to be in preparing for it?”

Sadly, many people are not serious about their spiritual life nor are they preparing for death. They are not praying; they do not read Scripture; they are not receiving the sacraments; they do not attend Mass; they are not repenting of their sins. In fact, many celebrate and call “good” or “no big deal” what God calls sin. They are majoring in all the minors, pursuing the ephemeral while neglecting the eternal.

Yes, a trumpet must be sounded; an urgent summons must go forth. It is time to repent and to get serious about the judgment day that awaits us all. Now is a time of grace and mercy, when God provides remedies for sin and graces for holiness. The time for these will end, however: 

It is appointed to man to die once, and thereafter to face judgment (Heb 9:27).

So we aspire to please the Lord, whether we are here in this body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. Therefore, since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men (2 Cor 5:9-11).

Sound the trumpet in Zion! It’s time to get ready to meet the Lord before the door of this life closes. Mother Church cries out, “Now is the time. This is the place. Turn from your sins and return to the Lord!”

This song asks, “Where Shall I Be When the First Trumpet Sounds?”

One Reply to “The Urgent Theme of Ash Wednesday”

  1. I don’t understand why they (preachers/homilists) don’t understand the relationship between Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Peter’s request to build three σκηνάς (tabernacles/tents/booths for the Biblical Holyday of Sukkot). It is simple.

    Let us assume this ascent up the mountain was just after Yom Kippur and just before Sukkot. Of course it was natural to build tabernacles at Sukkot, to keep the holyday, with these holy ones (Moses, Elijah, and Jesus).

    The Father spoke from the cloud, just as the following scriptures show, to confirm these prophecies listed refer to Jesus; that the “hear ye him” from Deuteronomy is being repeated for emphasis and fulfillment.


    Next we find Jesus in the confines of Caesarea Philippi, where Peter professes his faith in Christ, the Son of the living God, and in his turn receives from Jesus the promise of the power of the keys. Jesus here predicts His passion, and about a week later is transfigured before Peter, James, and John, probably on the top of Mt. Thabor. On descending from the mountain, Jesus exorcizes the mute devil whom His disciples had not been able to expel. Bending his way towards Capharnaum, Jesus predicts His Passion for the second time, and in the city pays the tribute-money for Himself and Peter. This occasions the discussion as to the greater in the kingdom of heaven, and the allied discourses. Finally, Jesus refuses His brethren’s invitation to go publicly to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

    Let us also note the appearance of Moses and Elijah, not dropping into generalizations that they were there to represent “the law and the prophets,” but rather because both of them were fundamentally linked to the revelation of the Messiah.

    Moses with Deut.18:
    The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
    [16] According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
    [17] And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
    [18] I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
    [19] And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

    Elijah in Mal.3:
    Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to this temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
    [2] But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
    [3] And he shall sit as a refiner and purifer of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

    Moses with Elijah in Mal.4:
    Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
    [5] Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
    [6] And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.