“FATHER! Father!” Sid rushed out of his classroom.
“Wuzzup, Sid!!!?” I asked.
“It’s almost Ash Wednesday,” he said.
“You seem excited about it. Most people aren’t so fond of a day marked by penance, fasting and abstinence,” I said.
“Because mom said Valentine’s Day is the same as Ash Wednesday,” he explained.
“Uh-huh,” I couldn’t see where he was coming from.
“Aren’t you also sad about this, Father?”
“About having ashes on Valentine’s?” Sid clarified.
“Why should I be sad, dude?” I challenged him.
“‘Coz ashes is death and Valentines is ‘bout love,” he smiled proudly at his answer.
“You clearly snitched that from mom, right?” I winked at him. Sid kept silent but couldn’t help blushing.
“With Valentine’s Day falling on Ash Wednesday, we could actually explain why Ash Wednesday is about love.”
“Ash Wednesday reminds us of two things: first, because of sin we will one day die and return to the ashes we came from, and second, by repenting and believing in the Gospel, we can overcome sin.”
Sid just gave me an empty stare. He didn’t quite get it.
“Okay, let me ask you something,” I tried another approach.
“What does the priest draw on your forehead on Ash Wednesday?”
“A cross!” Sid answered.
“And what does it stand for?” I continued.
“Jesus died for us!”
“Correct! And why did He die for us?”
“To save us from sin and because He loved us!”
“That’s it! Don’t you see! For Jesus, the shape of His love is a cross,” I traced a heart in the air.
“So the cross and the heart are the same?”
“For non-Christians they aren’t the same. But for us, they are actually two sides of the same coin.”
“Two sides?” Sid was lost again.
“It means that the Cross reminds us of how our sins made Jesus suffer and die, but is also a symbol of His love for us. One event, two lessons!”
“I totally get it, Father.”
“But the cross cannot remain on our foreheads. We must strive to apply it to our every thought, word and deed,” I then traced a cross before Sid.
“For the cross to become a symbol of love, we must embrace sacrifice generously. That is why Ash Wednesday is marked by practicing fasting and abstinence. Fasting for those who are 18 up to 59, and abstaining for those who have turned 14.”
“I’m not yet 14, Father. What can I do?”
“There is no age requirement to offer up something to God and neighbor. All you have to do is think of giving up or moderating the use of the things you like or enjoy.”
“Like what, Father?”
“Video games, soft drinks, candies, dessert, etc. It may also include fixing your bed, cleaning your room and more.”
“Suuuper!!!” Sid seemed so excited to begin Lent.
“Oh, Father?” he added.
“On Ash Wednesday, can you also draw a heart around the cross on my forehead?”