Today, February 22, 2023, marks the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians all over the world. This 40-day period of reflection, repentance and renewal culminates with Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first day of Lent is known as Ash Wednesday, and it is a significant day in the Christian calendar. On this day, Christians attend church services to receive a mark of ashes (usually a cross) on their foreheads, which symbolises their mortality and the need for repentance. The ashes are typically made by burning palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.
This morning, I attended the St. James Catholic Church in Osu, Accra for the Ash Wednesday Service, where I received ashes on my forehead with the priest saying, “Remember from dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” This very humbling reminder of my mortality reiterates the need for me to turn away from my sins, especially the ones that so easily beset me, and trust completely in the Lord with my all.
The ashes, which will remain on my forehead throughout the day, symbolise my willingness to acknowledge my faults and seek forgiveness, whilst serving as a public declaration of my faith in God, and a commitment to live a more righteous life.
The practice of using ashes as a symbol of repentance can be traced back to ancient Jewish traditions. In the Old Testament, the book of Job describes the use of ashes as a sign of mourning and repentance. [See Job 42;6]. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of repentance and humility in the Sermon on the Mount, urging us to give, pray and fast, and not worry. [See Matthew 6.]
Let me preach a little. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches us to give our gifts in private so that our Father, who sees everything, will reward us. And then, he teaches us how to pray and what to do when we are fasting.
This shows the importance of acts of charity to the Christian life and the spread of the Gospel. Giving was a central theme in Jesus’ ministry, and whenever He gave, people stayed and listened to what He had to say about the Kingdom of God.
When we carry out acts of charity, direct and indirect beneficiaries of those acts will be willing to listen to what we have to say and open to receiving the Gospel and all its benefits.
This Lenten season offers us a time to reflect and prepare, using acts of charity, prayer and fasting to deepen our relationship with God. When we take this season seriously, we will find spiritual growth and renewal, and ultimately find peace, joy, and meaning in our lives.
As we begin this Lenten season, let us reflect on our lives and renew our commitment to God. Let us use this time to seek forgiveness, grow in faith, and serve those in need, especially in these times when many people are in need. If you are fasting, the first few days are the most difficult, particularly if this is your first time.
You will face every kind of temptation including hunger. And so I pray that the Lord will strengthen you and help you to overcome all temptations and remain focused on Him.
And let us always remember the words spoken as we receive the ashes: “Remember from dust you came, and to dust, you shall return.” Read my Lent Testimony to be encouraged to participate in this year’s Lenten season.
Have a happy and blessed Lenten season, and I look forward to hearing amazing testimonies after Easter!
Written by Kow Abaka Essuman, an advocate for Jesus Christ.