Why does the Church make use of such a simple thing as ash? We know that humans consist of both spirit and body. The body is part of the earth. It issued from the earth and will return to earth. But the spirit comes from God and will return to God. In humans, spirit and body are united, and while we live on earth we are often torn between the two. The world accosts us through the body and attempts to subjugate the spirit to follow wordly laws. But as from the moment of baptism, the spirit fights back to subjugate the body. We are indeed humans of of both spirit and body. Even with great effort it is often difficult for us to make the body subservient to the spirit. During Lent we face this fight more consciously, this is the time to test the strength of our spirit.
I encourage you all to focus on acts of penance: to give generously, to fast and to pray. Let us all support Caritas' Lenten Action. As for fasting, there are many ways to do this. Some renounce tobacco or alcohol. Some set aside time to read the daily Gospel.Others may decide to get up ten minutes earlier than usual to recite a morning prayer. These are small gestures, but they are important because they demonstrate the power of the spirit over the body.
Let the symbol of the ash cross lead to definite actions and Lent be a time when the spirit vanquishes the body. A blessed Lenten time to you all.