Thursday, February 14, 2013

A few weeks ago the neighborhood in which I live was under a “boil water advisory.” Nearly everyone exiting the local supermarket carried a jug of water in each hand or a case of bottled water in the cart. Too large and heavy to fit in a bag, each had a bright sticker on its top, reading in bold letters, “Paid. Thank you.”

Today – Ash Wednesday – as many people leave church they wear the same emblem on their foreheads. Not a bright label, but a cross of crude ashes, makes it clear that the bearer has been purchased and now belongs to Christ. Saint Paul said this so clearly. In I Corinthians 6:20 he reminds us, “You have been purchased at a price.”

At the beginning of the Catholic rite of baptism, the priest or deacon traces the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person to be baptized, saying, “I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of His cross.” A soul ransomed by Christ from death to sin now belongs to its new Master. Not a slave to sin, the soul is bound to Christ, its Lord.

The ashes on my forehead mark me as a servant of Christ, purchased by Him at the price of His own life. So, for the 40 days of Lent do you suppose that I can be a little less comfortable in my life than normal? Praying more, fasting, giving to the poor — the traditional Lenten practices — all are a reminder to me that if I belong to a beneficent Master I can look to Him for all I truly need. Relying a little less on my own self, for 40 days I can learn to rely more on Christ. Being a little less selfish than normal, I can learn to thank Him who gave His life so that I might go free from the punishment I deserve for my sins.

That little cross on my forehead says a lot. It says, “Paid. Thank you.”

February 13, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

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