Super Multidirectional

The victory parade route in downtown Kansas City is becoming well known, much like the Mardi Gras parade route in New Orleans each year.  This week they are on back-to-back days as the Chiefs accomplished the rare feat of winning back-to-back Super bowls.  This time, the mobile celebration falls on Valentine’s Day which also happens to be Ash Wednesday, an important day for followers of Christ to be marked with the sign of faith and mortality.  There are a lot of directions for this to go, several intersections that may heed caution, and many routes that individuals can take.

Hundreds of years ago, Christianity provided most of the entertainment for our world through art, music, speeches, stories, the pomp of parades, and other celebrative ceremonies.  Along with royal families and military heroes, the church supplied celebrities.  But the stage has shifted with entertainment from the wide world of sports, big and small screens that magically illuminate stories, concerts with talented rock stars, and a million other realities that capture our attention.  These have put the church in its proper place: a place where it serves as a sign for greater spiritual reality, helps us identify our priorities, and points us toward our eternal destiny.

Ashes that get distributed each year at Masses and other prayer services to inaugurate the Christian season of Lent are a highly visible sign that we want to travel a route which brings us to a heavenly victory.  We ritualize a pilgrimage-parade every year for forty days as winter gives way to spring, darkness yields to brighter days, cold succumbs to warmth, and death in nature around us buds forth new life.  The route from ashes to Easter reflects the direction our Savior took from crucifixion to resurrection and the victory He won for us from sin to grace and from earthly death to everlasting life.  There may be some on the Super bowl parade route marked with the ashes of our mortal existence who serve as a meaningful sign to others.

Church leaders can go in many directions on instructing parishioners how to handle matters this Wednesday.  Some will take a hard line: “Get your ash in church!”  Others will be more subtle: “Girls, you’re always wanting God to point out the good guys—He’ll mark ‘em for you on Wednesday.”  Most, however, simply want us to identify with what we prioritize.  How we juggle sacrifice with celebration is a challenge.  Of course, the chocolates and champagne at Valentine’s Day dinners won’t fit well with Ash Wednesday’s sackcloth and prayer any more than our emphasis on abstinence from food and drink that is associated with parties fits with the cigars and coolers along the parade route.

Yet there are many means by which we express love from Valentine’s to Super bowls.  We saw the brotherly love of Jason and Travis at last year’s big game and the romantic love between Travis and Taylor at this year’s.  There is the charitable love that Mahomes and other Walter Payton Men of the Year finalists give to needy people in their communities.  And there is the sacrificial love that Jesus gave the world, imitated by the self-denial that many will offer in Lent, starting with penitential ashes and giving up something they value.  The Catholic Church wants us to witness our faith and be a sign for others this Wednesday, just as the ashes are a sign on our faces.  We can be a sign of love by embracing the tenants of Lent’s first day while also honoring the world champions and partaking in Valentine’s Day traditions.  Yes, there are a lot of directions for this to go.  One way or another, let’s stay on the parade route of victory as we seek an even greater victory at the end of our road.