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Reflections: Ashes on the Forehead: Get ready for Battle

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Over the years, I have found that people really like getting the blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday to kick off this important season. But why do we bother to get these ashes? What do they mean? Ashes are a sign of death and decay. So is something dying or decaying?

Actually it is our sin or the evil within us that we want to put to death. Our culture loves to play the victim role identifying evil out there somewhere. For example if we could only eliminate this or that group, the world would be great. Well unfortunately it is not that simple. The Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn spent seven years in Soviet labor camps and three years in exile before being set free. Rather than taking on the victim role and blaming some group for the evil in the world he realized that justice in the world is won in the heart and soul of each person.

So if every person were to become who God created him or her to be, our world would be the happy peaceful place for which we all yearn. The dividing line between good and evil, Solzhenitzyn discovered, lies within every human heart.

Lent offers us the opportunity to go into the “desert” with Jesus for this 40-day period to battle evil, not out there, but inside our own hearts. We are called to take responsibility for our faults and failures, not blaming our parents, our society or anyone else as a scapegoat.

Is this easy? No way! It takes great courage and is one of the greatest challenges we will ever face. It is entering battle with our own faults and weaknesses. The ashes mean we are willing to battle the enemy of our own sins to the death. But be aware the enemy has its defenses. There are all sorts of excuses and justifications that will surface to prevent the death of our sins. You and I would be foolish to go into such a battle unarmed. Yes, there are weapons at our disposal we are encouraged to use if we are to stick with this battle and be successful. The three weapons Jesus himself used and encourages us to take up are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

See next week’s article for more detail on these spiritual weapons. They are essential because our enemy is certainly no wimp.

Father Bruce Krebs is pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Minot.

Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Andrea Johnson at 857-1945 or ajohnson@minotdailynews.com

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