This is a repost from 3/6/2014. I thought it was a good refresher, though, since folks are already starting to warn others about the "sinfulness" of showin' ash. ;)
Yesterday found Twitter aflutter with some of the most amusing Catholic hashtags I'd ever seen. Things like #Ashtag and #ShowYourAsh. It was so much fun seeing these #CatholicSelfies, because each ashen forehead was a reminder that we are ALL united in our humanity. More than that, however, we all belong to Christ, and as such, are marked by the sign of His ransom.
Thus, I LOVED seeing these!
However, alongside this bubbling evangelism, a parallel sentiment was trying to stifle the conversation.
Folks were commenting on these posts in condemnation, suggesting that those who were posting them were doing so for arrogant purposes.
C'mon now. Seems a little bit arrogant to take the time to make a post implying the original posters were too stupid, lazy or prideful to understand the "meaning behind the Lenten readings."
To me, that screamed "Look at me and my super-humble-but-not-overly-super-because-I'm-still-humble humilty!"
Annoying. Very, very annoying.
The Ash Wednesday marking is a communal prayer - an outward expression of an inward faith. Much like saying Grace at meals in public. Much like making the Sign of the Cross as a pitcher when you take the mound at a baseball game.
We NEED more public witness, and I'm glad folks found unity - and joy - in sharing these photos. After all, Lent isn't just about sadness, misery and self-flagellation. It's about the joy of knowing we have been called by Christ to join Him in Eternity.
After all, this is the same mark used by the unnamed prophet in Ezekiel who runs through Jerusalem putting the "tau" on the foreheads of the righteous. "Tau" is the Hebrew letter "T." Anyone not marked with this letter was slaughered while those with the mark (much like during Passover) were extended mercy by God.
That's right, folks. The forehead mark in Ezekiel 9 was a cross, and it marked them as belonging to the Most High God. Sound familiar?
So I applaud those joyously wore their ashen crosses. We SHOULD be joyful. This mark is the mark of salvation... the mark of mercy.
For, indeed, ours is a Merciful God.
The last few days had me on a huge pro-Pope Francis kick. His support of pro-traditional marriage rallies in the US, his strong statements defending life in the womb, and his suggestion that the Eucharist be received while kneeling - all of this had me going "WOO HOO! I was wrong! Pope Francis is actually EXACTLY what I was hoping he'd be!"
I read it, and then I re-read it. I e-mailed it to myself (and a friend), and then I re-read it again.
The premise is that Pope Francis doesn't give out Communion because he's basically afraid of being caught passing along the Eucharist to a sinner vying for a photo-op.
Am I the only one who has inner alarm bells going:
All popes are priests, right? The MAIN JOB of a priest, regardless of if he's called to be a pastor, cardinal or even Bishop of Rome is to "feed the sheep."
Remember that whole "Hey Peter, you're gonna feed My sheep, right?" business back in John 21:17?
Jesus stressed the importance of feeding His flock - the Church. Feeding and tending the flock is ensuring that we, the Church, are given Jesus in both Body and Spirit. The Eucharist is Christ, fully incarnate (that's what "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" means!). Priests were SPECIFICALLY created in order to consecrate and distribute this sacred Sacrament, and Pope Francis shirks this responsibility because he's afraid he might accidentally give the Eucharist to someone unworthy?!
By that rationale, I guess I should stop giving money to homeless people because one of them might use it for drugs!
Maybe I shouldn't donate money to the Starving Children fund, either, because I'm suspicious the administrators of that program are just using poor children as a front for their own greedy ends...
Do you see my issue with this terribly poor rationale?
I get that he doesn't want to be connected with distributing the Eucharist to those who would cause scandal by their reception. However, giving up his priestly duty is, in my mind, a very cowardly way to go about handling this situation.
He just urged his brother bishops in Argentina to withhold the Eucharist from known pro-abortion candidates. When I saw that, I again rejoiced thinking, "Right on, Pope Francis!"
So imagine my surprise when I see that instead of taking his own advice, he bypasses the entire problem by allowing others to preside over the issue for him. Is he saying that it's okay for other priests to distribute Communion to scandalous folks because they're not as important as him?
Look... no one is really worthy to receive the Eucharist. No one. By some extreme grace, God humbles Himself and allows us avenues with which we can use to prepare ourselves for this gift. Some of us make use of these avenues, some of us don't. As the pontiff has expressed, there's really no way of knowing who has prepared himself and who has not. It's not the priest's job to attempt sorting out the sinners from the saints. His job is simply to distribute the Eucharist in good faith to those who present themselves.
However, if he DOES know that a person is in the state of mortal sin and is presenting himself/herself for Communion, he's got a moral obligation to refuse for several reasons:
Yes, it takes a lot of guts to refuse Communion to folks like this. Obviously it's going to create an uproar, and yes, you're definitely going to take some serious heat for it.
But ya know what? That's exactly what we need right now.
We need priests like this to highlight the gift that is our Eucharist. Too often we turn a blind eye and allow the Eucharist to be sullied because we're not brave enough to stand up and say "No!"
Instead, we timidly hand over Christ to the wretched soul who abuses His purity and all for what? To spare ourselves the awkward moment of reflection? To spare ourselves the spotlight of social reproach?
Pope Francis, feed your sheep. Feed us with the Bread of Life, and feed us by your example. You're doing and saying some really wonderful things, but if you're not doing this most basic responsibility as our shepherd, there is something severely wrong.
My prayers, holy pontiff, and the prayers of all the faithful... may they surround you and lift you to the Throne of God.
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