The very concept of Mardi Gras amuses and puzzles me. Fat Tuesday is basically an excuse to party hearty before the austerity of Ash Wednesday kicks in, with its smudged foreheads, somber music and readings, and Lenten sacrifice.
The message of Mardi Gras seems to be, "Before we get serious about Lent, let's eat, drink and debaucherize as much as we can because tomorrow the party's over!" In contrast, the message of Ash Wednesday is, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel."
Mardi Gras reminds me of the wild bachelor parties that some guys have before they get married. From whence comes this need to go in the totally opposite direction before settling into something as meaningful as marriage or Ash Wednesday? I mean, I like a good party as much as the next person, but why go overboard? Admittedly, human nature's inclination to sin makes the resistance to temptation difficult.
Ash Wednesday is simply an opportunity to renew our relationship with the God who created us and calls us to holiness. God is with us always, even in the midst of our wildest parties.
I'm not trying to throw ice water on anyone's Mardi Gras celebrations. Have fun! But maybe the awareness of God's loving presence might help us to reign in the temptation to excess.
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