I used to live in New Orleans where the celebration of Mardi Gras is as huge as one of those oversized floats wobbling down St. Charles Avenue skimming the canopy of oak trees as krewes throw plastic beads at enthusiastic revelers. Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is when Christians are encouraged to reflect on repentance before the solemn season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. I never had the impression that the people smushed together on Bourbon Street reflected anything other than how alcohol really, really lowers inhibitions. Still, I love a parade and feeling like Mr. T from the 1980s television series, The A-Team with 40 pounds of shine dangling from my neck.
Shrove Tuesday is like New Year’s Eve in the secular world. You celebrate, indulge, imbibe. The next day you wake up pop some aspirin, chug water, and begin your resolutions. Lent isn’t as much about resolutions as it is a time to make restitution for ways we have failed God. Maybe that sounds like a buzz kill compared to the revelry of Mardi Gras or even the zeal of New Year’s resolutions, but I love the sobriety of Ash Wednesday. I love going to mass and seeing the community of believers line up to face mortality with the meekness of remorse and hope that is mercy. It’s not just lining up for ashes, it’s realigning ourselves with God. It’s committing to taking off the weight of sin, to stripping away anything that separates us from our Savior and preparing ourselves for the joy that resurrection brings.