In many places around the world the tradition of Carnival (Latin for putting aside meat) or Mardi Gras (French for Tuesday of Fat/Grease) have become incredibly popular but disconnected from their roots. As Christians, we need to stay connected. Whether you choose the name carnival which underscores the older tradition still practiced by many Christians of not eating any meat through all of Lent, or the name Mardi Gras which underscored even the giving up of lard and other meat products; each of these names draws to the importance of tomorrow's fast. Eat it today because tomorrow you go hungry.
On Ash Wednesday we not only abstain from meat, but are also supposed to actually fast. The minimalist will always ask how much they can eat and still call it fasting. The idea is very simple you should end up going to bed hungry.
It is easy for us Americans to forget how many people in our own country go to bed hungry every night. They have no choice. On Ash Wednesday we go hungry by choice, as penance, a demonstration of our contrition and our hunger for God, our hunger for God's mercy.
Today many of us will eat in excess. It should remind us of all of the excesses in our lives. Today we look at how we have lived the last year, in particular the sin. We gather it all, and tomorrow we hand it all over to God. And we allow our bodies to feel hunger, that we might hunger more deeply for God.