For as long as I can remember Ash Wednesday has always been a significant day in the Manilla household, as it is for every Catholic family.
I will never forget going to mass with my parents, brother and sister in Sharon, Pennsylvania. I received the mark of the cross on my forehead to remind me that I too came from dust. It has always been a day of reflection – a day to remember the incredible sacrifice of my Savior.
But as I looked at the calendar this year and noticed the day Ash Wednesday takes place, I felt an extra sense of significance.
February 14, Valentine’s Day. As I read that, I couldn’t help but think of how perfect that was.
I don’t know if there could be a better day to reflect on Christ taking up the cross to die for me – for all of us – than the day that is all about love. For a moment it brought a smile to my face as I began to reflect on the unconditional love God has shown me throughout my life. It can be overwhelming to think about and often hard to wrap my mind around.
However at one time in my life, instead of appreciating God’s affection for me I questioned it. Nearly 20 years ago, in the blink of an eye, I went from having an abundance of money and material things, to searching for loose change in hopes of scraping enough to buy a few groceries for the week.
The whole time I felt like God was punishing me; however, the reality was He was saving me from becoming of the world. He loved me enough to give me a wakeup call. Even recalling this memory today, humbles me and makes me ever so grateful for such a king.
And so as we prepare to start this season of Lent, I can’t help to feel an extra bit of excitement to reflect and thank our Savior for his sacrifice and mercy. He created us in his image, each of us uniquely out of dust!
“Remember you are from dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19.
Looking back at this time I want to offer up a challenge to us all to really use this time to remember the love and grace we have been shown, the power behind the sacrifice Jesus made for us – all done because we are loved unconditionally.
This is an occasion for honest self-examination to see how we have separated ourselves from God but also Praise Him and show Him our gratitude for the sacrifice made to bridge that divide. Do not see this as something as another item to check off the to-do list, really take it to heart.
This Ash Wednesday, falling on Valentine’s Day, is the perfect reminder that no matter what, there is no greater love than that of our Heavenly Father.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16 NIV
Jack Manilla is Owner, President and CEO of Portofino Pools in Jacksonville, Florida. He shares his life journey in his new book, “Secrets of The Pink House.”