Today’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It’s also the beginning of what’s become an annual caffeine withdrawal headache. The things I do for penance…
“Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
On the first day of Lent we heard these words (adapted from Genesis 3:19) spoken as a priest dipped his thumb in ash and made the sign of the cross on our foreheads. They served as an outward sign of an inner penance and a symbol of mortality. We wore those ashes for the remainder of the day, or at least until they rubbed off. Wherever we went and whatever we did, we were witnesses to the faith. Those who saw us know that we have been baptized into the death of Jesus Christ and hope to share in His resurrection.
More people attend Ash Wednesday mass than Christmas or even Easter, the holiest day of the year. That alone is impressive, but more impressive is the fact that it’s not even a Holy Day of Obligation. We are obliged to attend Sunday mass and a handful of special occasions, but that rarely guarantees universal or even majority attendance. A recent survey found that only a third of those who identify themselves as Catholic attends mass weekly. Yet a great many of the remaining two-thirds will take time out of their work day to attend a morning or midday Ash Wednesday mass to receive ashes.
Why do people make such special efforts? Would we still attend if we didn’t have something to show for it? Are we publicly displaying our piety, real or pretended, seeking the admiration of men?
It’s pretty much inevitable that the end of the year inspires us to take stock of what we’ve done well, what we’ve done poorly, and what we’ve failed to do in the last year. I asked one of my readers to offer constructive criticism. Here’s the response [with links added by me].
I know I tend to walk through life with my foot in my mouth, but I've really been on a roll with offending people lately. I certainly don't mean to. My mother calls my accidental obnoxiousness "ignorant inconsideration". I usually just don't realize that I've offended someone and why I find out I have I'm usually clueless as to why they're offended. Often, I'm actually offended that they're offended. In fact, one pet peeve that's sure to get me riled up is someone taking offense at something I didn't intend to be offensive. (Please don't deliberately push that button. Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.)
I've always had trouble with tact and diplomacy, but I'd like to think that I've been getting better over the years. Lately, though, I've offended and/or ticked off a number of people – friends, family, and strangers alike. I've realized that lately I've been rather cranky, short-tempered, and obstinate (more so than usual).
1) If I have offended and/or angered you, please accept my apology.
2) Please pray that whatever's causing this recent unpleasantness abates.
As stated in an earlier post, I owe some people an apology. Before I make good on my promise, I must apologize for taking so long. I probably could have whipped up something quick, but I thought it better to put time and consideration into my words. It would have been a shame if in my haste I inadvertently offended again.
I think the easiest way for me to do this is to step through comments that I worded poorly and say what I should have said.