Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. During Mass we are told the truth about ourselves: ‘dust you are and unto dust you shall return’. There is no escaping this reality. No politician, no lifestyle coach, and certainly no celebrity would be so daring as to tell us that. And yet the Church does because it is the truth. We are mortal and our life is finite. Many people want to run away from this truth. With the ashes used today the Church brands us with it.
But as well as telling us that stark, blunt truth the Church also tells us that this is not the end. Eternal life can be ours is we live our lives in union with that of Jesus. The whole of Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the great Easter mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection. We are called not just to remember those events but to experience them for ourselves through the celebration of the Liturgy. But to do that we have to listen to the other message we are given on Wednesday. We are not told to try harder or be more resolute and determined. Rather we are told to ‘Repent and believe the gospel’.