Homily for Ash Wednesday Year A
Theme: Season of Self Examination
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Wednesday February 26 2020
Every year, God offers us various forms of opportunities to examine our lives and to assess our level of progress in the journey of faith. In the Church’s spiritual and liturgical lives, these opportunities present themselves also in the forms of the Liturgical Seasons. The Liturgical Season of Lent brings us to empty ourselves of all things unnecessary and distractive and to disconnect ourselves from all causes of retardation in our journey of faith, as to be filled with the graces we need to do the will of God; doing good and avoiding evil. May our Lenten Journey this year be a moment of renewal and of spiritual growth; Amen.
The Liturgy of Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent which is a period of Forty Days following the celebration of the Paschal Mysteries of Christ at Easter. At Mass, ashes, which are gotten from the burning of the olive fronts used for the Celebration of the Palm Sunday of the previous year, are placed on our foreheads to remind us of our nothingness and of the transitory nature of this world and of all it contains. In a time in history when we think more of glory and of gold, it becomes difficult to recognise the spiritual import of the ashes we receive on our foreheads. Our humble reception of ashes reminds us of our true identity and the proper disposition we must have to receive that which is more than gold and more glorious than earthly glory. This is very important because irrespective of how glorious and golden our wishes and aspirations may be, it is best to always remember that dust we are and unto dust we shall return. Through this rite and act, we enter into the mood of penitence and penance, sustained by the three disciplines at the heart of the Season of Lent, namely; Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. To sincerely receive these ashes on our foreheads is to recognise our need of the mercy of God and to embrace indispensably the attitude of repentance that disposes us for a personal encounter with the mercy of God. To repent is to turn away from whatever is in opposition to God and His commandments. To repent is to take the bold step of coming back to God our Father whose arms are perennially open to receive us into His loving and merciful embrace.
The readings of today speak in the tone and rhymes of this Holy Season. The First Reading (Joel 2:12-18) invites us to a moment of conversion and repentance that is interior and integral; “let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for He is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” To stage a moment of conversion and repentance that is only superficial is to grow in a certain form of spiritual worldliness that neither saves nor edifies. True conversion and repentance come from within, from the heart which is the seat of our spiritual countenance. Only such an attitude can reconcile us, not just with God, but also with one another; bringing us to a daily consciousness of the core of the message of Christ preached by Saint Paul in the Second Reading of today (2 Cor 5:20-6:2), “be reconciled to God… now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.” The great question for today is; am I ready to be reconciled with God and with my brothers and sisters? Am I ready to benefit from this favourable time of salvation? Readiness is manifested by concrete measures done in the spirit of Christ and after the pattern He wants them to be done. These measures are the content of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel Reading (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18); “your almsgiving must be secret… When you pray, go to your private room… When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do.” Through the practice of these Lenten disciplines, it becomes obvious that we truly love God and our brothers and sisters and that we are ready to be reconciled with God and with our brothers and sisters and to live reconciliation. Through our practice of these disciplines we become most pleasing to God. As we begin this spiritual journey, “may we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him” (Pope Francis, _Lenten Message_ 2020, n. 2).
“Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self restraint”; Amen.
Happy Lenten Season; Fr Cyril CCE