Thank God, for a good number of reasons, Ash Wednesday is celebrated in our country in a very popular way. Even if it exudes a dire, gloomy air, what with all the liturgical protocols on fasting, abstinence and other forms of self-denial, it continues to enjoy a large following among us. Even those who are not very faithful in their Sunday obligation would exert the effort to have their foreheads marked with ash on that day.
Obviously, we should continue to clarify the true significance of this day. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent which is meant to prepare us for the culmination of Christ’s redemptive mission that is liturgically celebrated in Easter. It somehow encourages us to have another renewal of our baptismal commitments or to have another conversion.
In the gospel of that day, we are reminded of having purity of intention in all our deeds. We have to understand that the intention plays a very crucial role in our life. That’s where we choose where we want to be—with God or with ourselves, to truly love God and neighbor or to indulge in self-love.
With our intention, we can direct our acts to God, following what was once indicated by St. Paul, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10,31) That’s how our acts become good, or moral. Otherwise, they are bad, or at least dangerous.
This is so, since God, being the Creator, is the standard for everything. And more than the standard, he is, in fact, the very substance of what is good, true and beautiful, what is fair and just, what is perfection itself.
Nothing is good, true and beautiful, nothing is fair and just, nothing is perfect if it is not done with God and for God. In short, we need to refer all our acts to God. We have to make this affirmation very clear in our mind and do everything to make that ideal a reality.
We need to realize then that we have to take utmost care of our intention, making it as explicit as possible, and honing it to get engaged with its proper and ultimate object who is God.
We should try our best to shun being simply casual or cavalier about this responsibility. We can easily play around with it, since intentions are almost invariably hidden from public knowledge. We are urged to be most sincere in directing our intentions properly.
We can easily fall into hypocrisy and deception, doing what can appear good externally but is not internally, since we could refuse giving glory to God, which is the proper intention to have, and instead feed and stir our vanity, pride, greed, lust, etc.
We need to actively purify our intentions, since we have to contend with many spoilers in this regard these days. In fact, we just have to look around and see how openly opposed many people are of directing their intentions to God.
To them, intentions are strictly personal and confidential matters that others do not have any right to meddle. While there is a certain truth to this claim, we have to remind ourselves that our intentions too are subject to a moral law.
That is why we have to pay serious attention to where our intention tilts, to who or what actually holds our heart, for it is the heart, the home of our intention, where we determine the morality of our acts and ultimately where we find our true identity.*