Ash Wednesday

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Matt 6:1-6, 16-18

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day journey into the desert with Jesus. Before He began his ministry of love, his surrendering his life, He went in order to pray and receive strength from His heavenly Father. For he was about to undertake a mission that involved great suffering and great pain. But it was also a mission of love, and it was the very mission that he was called to.

Lent is the period of 40 days — the exact time Jesus went into the desert. And the exhortation and encouragement off these 40 days involves fasting – that is the disciplining of our bodies to bring about a control of our impulses, a control of our destiny. So fasting is a vital and an important part of these 40 days.

Prayer. Prayer is our union with God, a reaching out to our loving God, to have him come to speak to us and to give us direction, assurance, and encouragement. Prayer is a vital part of these 40 days.

The third leg is the leg of almsgiving . The Lord has blessed us as a people. Every night when I rest my head on the pillow, I rejoice because I have had sufficient food during the day. I rejoice because my thirst has been quenched. I rejoice because my medical needs have been taken care of. I rejoice because I have a warm bed and a warm house. And let me assure you that many, many people in the world do not have what we have. The loving God though, asks only one thing of us: stewardship of what He has given onto us. Taking from our own blessedness, to provide blessedness onto others. Almsgiving is a most important way of telling the Lord how much we love Him. So much so, that we want to give onto others so that they are provided for, or taken care of.

The symbol of the Lenten journey is the imposition of ashes. And in that imposition, turn away from sin, and follow the Gospel. And then from the Old Testament we are reminded that from the earth we came, and onto the earth we shall return. Remember that thou art dust, and onto that dust thou shall return. Tremendously humbling scriptural passages, for one of the things that we are challenged to do are to submerge our strong ego in order to take on Christ, in order to allow Jesus to reach into our very being, to shape and to form a new person in a new image.

Truly, in no way can the imposition of ashes, can the imposing of ashes, guarantee that all of this will happen. But certainly it is a wonderful beginning that we stand in public, with a darkened image on our forehead, acknowledging that we love the Lord so very, very much, that we willing to embark on the journey. For I would dare say to you that the chances of success go up exponentially as you attend mass – minimally on Sunday – as you discipline with fasting of your body, as you take what has been given onto you and share it with others.

Those three ingredients will guarantee that this Lent will bring you to great joy, for you will rise with Jesus on Easter Sunday. You will feel the palpable joy of that resurrection, and at some point you will be called to share with him in the glory of that resurrection.
My brothers and sisters: I say to you that these 40 days are so very, very important. I say onto you that it is my humble privilege to impart the ashes onto your foreheads. It is my humble privilege to bring you the body and blood of Jesus to animate and strengthen you, so that these 40 days might be marked by fidelity, constancy, and absolute commitment to fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. For it is in the embrace of those three that we find our way; it is in the embrace of those three that our journey become clearer.

May He strengthen and guide us this day and every day of our lives.