Do you express your Catholic faith publicly? Do you ever avoid expressing Catholic moral teaching and tradition for fear you will be mocked, called a bigot, or simply dismissed?
These questions come to mind as we are just a couple of days away from Ash Wednesday, when we’ll be marked visibly as Catholic.
Sadly, many Canadians are finding their cities and workplaces are increasingly becoming hostile to Christianity- or any other faith tradition which isn’t keeping with current social trend.
I recall during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Catholic Vice President Joe Biden appeared at some competition on Ash Wednesday marked with the ashes on his forehead. The reaction from the media was appalling.
One media outlet alleged that Biden had been bruised. Another journalist simply laughed aloud at the sight of the ashes. Is this really where our society is at? Sadly yes.
My husband shared with me a story of last Ash Wednesday. Initially he planned on attending Mass in the evening after work because he was fed up of the usual remarks and glares he would receive from colleagues. However, realizing that that was the “easy” way out, he decided to go in the middle of the workday, and receive ashes from the priest who was administering them most dramatically on people’s foreheads.
My husband realized that the temporary moment of being ashamed of being a Catholic was actually shameful itself. To compensate, he wore wear his exceptionally large ashes without a second thought. As he expected, he received over a dozen comments by colleagues for his ashes throughout the day. While some of these comments were steeped in ridicule, some of the comments were simply ignorant.
This ridicule is nothing compared to what Christ experienced. Apart from the physical torture he had to endure, on His way to Calvary, Christ was spat upon, laughed at, and hated. He was mocked. He endured all this as a gift to us.
We must never be ashamed of our faith. Our faith is a gift meant to be shared with others. When people offer an ignorant comment about our tradition or morals, this is an opportunity to explain.
So this Ash Wednesday, wear your ashes well. And if you’re mocked and ridiculed for having them, rejoice for being given the opportunity to start Lent by sharing in a very small way in what Christ himself experienced.
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