Looking Ahead at the 2018 calendar
My birthday is March 1, and a few times throughout my life, March 1 has also been Ash Wednesday. I am sure that much of the world, when their birthday falls on Ash Wednesday, celebrates their birthday with more vigor than they offer discipline for the beginning of Lent. For me, when my birthday and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day, Ash Wednesday takes center stage. My birthday can easily be celebrated on the day before, or the day after, or even the weekend after. Unlike Ash Wednesday, my birthday is transferable, but Ash Wednesday is always Ash Wednesday.
This year Ash Wednesday is February 14 - Valentine's Day. Much of the world will celebrate Valentine's Day, but for the Christian, something is amiss if we find ourselves putting more effort into planning a sweetheart dinner than we put into preparing for Lent. In fairness, everyone knows when Valentine's Day is. Because the date of Ash Wednesday changes every year, it often surprises us with its arrival. Many discover it is Ash Wednesday because they saw someone with ashes on their forehead at work or in the community. Mark your calendars now, and find a way to observe Ash Wednesday. I also want to warn us not to view our Ash Wednesday commitment as something to "get out of the way." Valentine's date night can be just as meaningful after the evening mass. If you find yourself attending an earlier mass in order to celebrate a bigger Valentine's event in the evening, you might take some time to ask the hard questions about your intentions.
Some may think these comments are foolish or critical. This leads me to another combination of dates in 2018. This year April 1 is not only April Fool's Day, but it is also Easter Day. There is no doubt that many people in our world think the resurrection is a massive joke for uneducated people to subscribe. St. Paul reminds us that we are to be "fools for Christ." For the people of faith, April 1 this year will be no joke, for Easter Day is the absolute center of our lives. We are April fools for Christ, and when you are a fool for Christ, the world thinks you do silly things - things such as postponing your birthday or Valentine's Day due to Ash Wednesday. In the end it doesn't matter what the world thinks. We live for Christ, and our truest joy can only come from our faithfulness to Jesus.
Father Paul Lillie