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Ash Wednesday, start of Lent: When ‘world is a mess,’ we must ‘turn to God’

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Lent is celebrated by Christians worldwide starting on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

During Lent, believers remember and honor the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert after his baptism, during which he was tempted by Satan. 

Ash Wednesday begins a 40-day spiritual pilgrimage for today’s faithful — symbolized by receiving ashes on the forehead.

“Many of us have been too busy doing other things that haven’t brought us the happiness God wants us to have” — Lent is “the perfect opportunity to deepen our relationship with God.”

Noting the ashes are “a sign of repentance and a willingness to walk with Christ,” Fr. Stephen Rock of Reading, Massachusetts, told Fox News Digital that as the ashes are applied, these words are spoken: “’Repent and believe in the Gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’”

Fr. Rock is a priest for the Catholic community in Reading, which consists of two churches, St. Agnes and St. Athenasius. He shared a number of other thoughts this week about Ash Wednesday.

A Catholic priest sprinkles ash on the head of a man during Ash Wednesday rituals last year, on Feb 17, 2021, at the St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent all over the world. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A Catholic priest sprinkles ash on the head of a man during Ash Wednesday rituals last year, on Feb 17, 2021, at the St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent all over the world. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Lent is a “penitential time” that allows us to better prepare to “enter into the mystery” of Holy Week, Fr. Rock noted. During Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday, believers reflect on the final period of Christ’s life on earth, including the Last Supper, Christ’s crucifixion and his resurrection — which is celebrated on Easter.

“Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of God, did all of this for our salvation and to set us free from sin and death,” said Fr. Rock.

He continued, “Lent is a time for us to fast, to pray and to perform works of charity (or alms giving).” For all those who embrace this time with an open heart, Fr. Rock said it will “enable them to draw closer to our loving God and strengthen their spiritual lives.”

In this file photo, a woman receives a cross of ashes during the traditional Ash Wednesday service.

In this file photo, a woman receives a cross of ashes during the traditional Ash Wednesday service.
(REUTERS/John Vizcaino)

It’s not so much what we “give up,” said Rock — as many people abstain from alcohol, sweets or other treats or pleasures during Lent. Instead, it’s really about “giving more time to God, inviting Him to come into our hearts and transform us.”

Fr. Rock likens this to “the farmer in the Gospel who sows the seeds and goes to sleep not knowing exactly how the seed germinates, blossoms and ripens. He trusts that God will provide.”

Rock noted that Lent is not meant as a kind of religious “show,” but instead is a “realistic” and “down-to-earth” time for believers.

The Rev. Ethan Jewett, with Saint Clement's Episcopal Church, waits to place ash on worshippers' foreheads on Ash Wednesday in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time when Christians prepare for Easter through acts of penitence and prayer. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Rev. Ethan Jewett, with Saint Clement’s Episcopal Church, waits to place ash on worshippers’ foreheads on Ash Wednesday in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time when Christians prepare for Easter through acts of penitence and prayer. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP)

“It’s about the ashes and the cross,” he said. “It’s about everything in life that touches us, and how we spend our time. It’s about sin and sorrow, life and death.”

Fr. Rock related Lent to current world events. “The world is a mess, our society seems adrift and issues related to COVID have made things worse,” the priest said.

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Referencing Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Fr. Rock said there is no better time to “turn our thoughts to God, inviting Him into our lives to strengthen us and give us hope in a world that seems so out of control.”

Fr. Steve Rock, a Catholic priest in Reading, Massachusetts, told Fox News Digital about the significance of Ash Wednesday: When we "open our hearts to a God who loves us … everything changes."

Fr. Steve Rock, a Catholic priest in Reading, Massachusetts, told Fox News Digital about the significance of Ash Wednesday: When we “open our hearts to a God who loves us … everything changes.”
(Fr. Steve Rock)

Rock said that if believers take the three pillars of Lent seriously — fasting, praying and acts of charity — these will “help open our hearts to a God who loves us. Then everything changes.”

Fr. Rock added, “Many of us have been too busy doing other things that have never brought us the happiness that God wants us to have.” 

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“Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. He wants a relationship with us. If we take the time,” he also said, “God will help us to be filled with hope and joy.”

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 “Then, we can say at Easter, ‘He is Risen, He is truly Risen!’” 

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