Written on: February 26, 2020
First Reading: Joel 2: 12-18
Second Reading: II Corinthians 5: 20- 6: 2
Gospel: Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
The Mass Readings for Ash Wednesday are quite familiar to all of us. The prophet Joel was sent by God to call the people to repentance and conversion. We are reminded that our return to the Lord must be a wholehearted inner conversion that is authentic.
The Gospel Reading from Matthew calls us to renew our commitment to live out the three works of mercy required by Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. He reminds us that the practice of true piety is not to be done for “recognition” but “in secret.”
It does us well to take time to ponder these truths, especially as we enter into these next Forty Days.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, calls Lent a “season of grace…a path that leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.” Pope Francis calls us to rekindle our hearts by taking the time to pause, see and return.
- from the compulsion to a fast-paced life
- and refrain from haughty looks
- and negative comments and stop the urge to want to control.
- the face of our families/community
- faces of the children and young people filled with yearning for a future filled with hope
- the elderly who reveal the living memory of our people
- the faces of the sick and remorseful
- see and contemplate the face of Crucified Love who continues to bring hope to ALL, without exception.
- without fear to the arms of your Father who is rich in mercy
- and allow your hearts to be touched
- and experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God.
When I served as a College Campus Minister our celebration of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season was always Ecumenical at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The different denominations came together to pray for one another and share in the universal “sign of the cross.” We chose to focus on our similarities and not the differences. We were all seeking a wholehearted inner conversion.
It was inspiring to walk through campus on Ash Wednesday and see so many Young Adults marked with the sign of the cross on their foreheads…proud of their faith and love for Jesus. I am sure the witness they gave caused many of their peers to pause, see and, in many cases, return.