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Ask Father Paul - 02-22-12

Father Paul Massey's picture

Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible

Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have gotten in my ministry and via email for this column.

Dear Father Paul:  What is Lent and Ash Wednesday all about?  My church does not participate in Lent. — Dennis

Dear Dennis:  Today is “Ash Wednesday,” marking the first day of the Season of Lent, 2012.  Lent is an annual 46-day period of solemn prayer and fasting for Christians ending on Easter Sunday. It is observed by over one billion Christians throughout the world, however, not every denomination observes Lent.  Basically, Lent is a time for believers to draw nearer to God.

The observance of Lent began in the early church and is based on the example of Jesus, found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, when he spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying prior to the start of his earthly ministry.  Personally, I like to think of Lent as an annual “46-day revival” to help me get ready for Easter. Every year during Lent I try to zero in on some aspect of my spiritual life that needs strengthening. Many believers do the same thing during Lent ... things like spending more time reading the Bible, praying more, fasting, good deeds, etc.

On Ash Wednesday, ashes made from the burning of the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm fronds, are imposed upon the foreheads of believers in the shape of a cross as they kneel at the altar.  The ashes are a solemn symbol of repentance and of our mortality after the custom of the ancient Hebrews in “heaping ashes on their heads” as a sign of sorrow and mourning.  The pastor or priest will say these or similar words as he applies the ashes to each believer ... “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

 The ashes are by custom worn for the entire day and serve as a wonderful witness to believers and non-believers alike. Every year someone will come up to me and say, “Do you know you have ‘dirt’ on your forehead?”  And this gives me all the opening I need to tell them about Jesus.

 Dear Father Paul:  What do you think about all of the negative campaign ads we are seeing in the race for the republican presidential nomination? — L.S.

 Dear L.S.:  I don’t like it one bit.  After watching some of the ads, I suddenly feel the need to go take a shower. Seriously. Sadly, the ads will likely become even more objectionable as we get closer to the “Super Tuesday” primary in March.

 For a candidate to point out where he or she differs with a rival candidate on an issue is one thing.  But the half-truths, falsehoods and out-right lies we are seeing in this years race among republicans is repugnant to any fair minded person. The idea seems to be that “my opponent is ‘the enemy’ and he must be utterly destroyed and brought down, no matter what it takes.”

 A serious review of American history (I was a history major) will reveal that campaign politics  has indeed been a rough and dirty business throughout our history.  But in 2012 we seem to be reaching a new low.

 The Democrats are no better.  The 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama was noted for its viciousness.

 The really sad thing, however, is that all of the negative ads actually seem to work!  Millions of dollars spent on negative campaign ads in some of the states that have already voted in this campaign season are credited with producing big wins.

 What does all this say about us as a people?  That we prefer a lie to the truth?  I certainly hope not, but maybe that is indeed the case.

I have determined, as a committee of one, that hereafter I will not vote for any candidate whose campaign is based mostly on half truths, unfounded personal attacks on his opponent and outright lies. I figure that an office seeker who will lie to me before he gets into office will for sure lie to me after he gets into office.  

And God knows we’ve had enough of that!

Do you have a question?  Email me at and I will try to answer your question in the paper.


Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Church of the Holy Cross is a Spirit-filled, Sacramental congregation.  You are cordially invited to worship with us this coming Sunday.  Information, directions and pod-casts of Father Paul’s Sunday messages are at


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