Mark 1: 1-13
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Ash Wednesday confronts us with the undeniable reality that we are fragile, mortal creatures who, despite our best efforts and intentions, sin against God and others and ever stand in need of God’s mercy. We acknowledge this reality in the liturgy of this day with a simple yet deeply moving action: the signing of our foreheads with a cross of ashes. Today we acknowledge some of the deepest truths about ourselves, those we might otherwise choose to ignore, and commit once again to observe a holy Lent. In our daily Lenten mediations this year, Cathedral clergy will move sequentially through the Gospel of Mark, journeying with Jesus through the entirety of his ministry, from his beginning in the wilderness all the way to the cross and finally to the empty tomb. We begin that journey today in penitence and in hope, reminded by the very first verse of Mark that Jesus’ message is fundamentally good news. So come this day and join with the community of faith as the Church embarks on the pilgrim journey of Lent. Be reminded that you are indeed dust, but never forget that the cross you bear on your forehead is the sign of Christ’s victory over sin and death and a testament to God’s immeasurable love for you, no matter who you are or what you have done.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, 217)