It was Ash Wednesday and I was standing outside Our Lady of Dolours church near Marine Lines station. Don’t tsk tsk and nod your head disapprovingly. I know I should have arrived on time for Mass. But in my defense, I came immediately after a lecture, in fact left early from one. So don’t judge me.
Anyway, while Mass was on, my mind began to wander. Hear me out. I had Holy thoughts. At least at first. I wondered why this day was called Ash Wednesday.
For starters, for those who don’t know what happens on this day and why Catholics fuss over it. Here’s what you need to know. On Ash Wednesday, the priest at Mass applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each member of the congregation, uttering the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Dust haan? Shouldn’t we smear dust or moist soil on our forehead? More significant isn’t it? Well, Christians are buried, aren’t we? Where does ash figure in? That’s after cremation, isn’t it? Well, I toyed with the idea of clarifying this doubt with my mother, but wiser counsels prevailed. Mother, for the record, does not approve my “questioning faith”.
Anyway, the phrase “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” is, supposedly, what God spoke to Adam and Eve after they eaten of the forbidden fruit and fallen into sin. These words indicated to our first parents the bitterest fruit of their sin, namely death. In the context of the Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes, they remind each penitent of their sinfulness and mortality, and, thus, their need to repent and get right with God before it is too late. The cross reminds each penitent of the good news that through Jesus Christ crucified there is forgiveness for all sins, all guilt, and all punishment.
How do I know this? Well, I may have reached late for Mass but I do pay attention to the sermon. All right! Some parts. I am human. The priest spoke about fasting, repenting and avoiding temptation. My mind begins to wander again. Clearly, I had already defaulted on the third part. Avoiding the temptation to be distracted during Mass. Strike one. Well, this time it was the priest’s fault. I had to reflect on what he just said.
That is when it struck me. Devil definitely has a damn good marketing strategy. It is called Temptation.
Well, the sound of it itself is so tempting. How easy it is to tempt people! What is hard is the effort that goes into avoiding it. Let’s take the best (meaning, hardest to resist) temptation. The temptation to engage in coitus (Looks like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory is messing with my speech) whether it is pre marital or extra marital.
What has God to offer? Celibacy. The following explanation directed at ignorant mortals. Catholic priests and nuns take a vow of celibacy in order to serve God more effectively and faithfully. They take this vow very seriously. Well, at least most of them do. (Controlling my thoughts on the recent cases of pedophilic tendencies of certain priests. I’m in the church, I am practicing restraint. It’s Lent, for God sake!)
Sex versus Celibacy. Hmmm. Not such a tough decision. What a diabolical marketing strategy!
Moreover, just as automobiles undergo the Crash Test before the manufacturer is given the go-ahead for mass production, Satan (sounds more malevolent than Devil apart from better sound effect) decides to test the viability of his ‘Temptation’ marketing strategy on none other than Jesus himself. Oh the gall!
During Jesus’ forty days of fast and prayer in the desert, Satan tempted him. Not one to be beaten, Jesus, in one of his replies told Satan that Man could live on the Word of God alone. Take that Satan. Hah! Jesus tried to sell you the Word of God in return. Must hand it to him, Jesus may have been famished but he managed to dish out one of his one-liners.
Just then, I am jolted back into reality by “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give…” Oh God, the sermon ended some time back. Now I must pay attention. GET BEHIND ME SATAN, I’m on Jesus’ marketing team now!
( Though I am not deeply religious, I respect people’s faith in God. This article is written in jest. It is not meant to disrespect anyone’s beliefs or religion. Nor is it an attempt at blasphemy. I believe God will not be offended because he knows my pure intentions and he possesses a sense of humour. Something people should attempt at achieving some more of.)