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Mary Lange, SHF

Ash Wednesday Graphic Today we embark on a forty day journey – one from cosmic dust to Easter garden; a journey to sow justice in the lives of our brothers and sisters through our action and through our prayer.

During his Ash Wednesday homily last year, Pope Francis called for an honest “conversion of the heart,” and said that this “challenge” does not exclude anyone; it is very inclusive.  Pope Francis said:

We know that this world every more artificial, makes us live out in a culture of ‘doing’ of the ‘useful,’ where without realizing it, we exclude God from the horizon, and we exclude the horizon itself.  Lent calls us to ‘wake up’ to remind us that we are creatures, that we are simply not God.”

Pope Francis said that Lent is a moment to open up to others.  And to do so, he added, there are three key words:  prayer, fasting and charity (or works of love).

He continued:  “All three share the need to not let appearances take over.  Looks don’t matter.  The value of life does not depend on the approval of others, or on success, but on what we have inside.”

Thus we fast from poor habits and attitudes so that we can feast on gospel values integrated deep within us so that we live and breathe these values without thinking about them.  They become like our inner skin, a heart beating with the love of Christ.

Lent is a communal season, a call to walk this journey together.  In our reading from Joel we heard

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast, call an assembly;
Gather the people, notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders; gather the children and the infants at the breast.

We are called to journey together as one, as brothers and sisters of our loving God.  Our second reading calls us to be ambassadors of Christ, representatives in the flesh of Jesus the Christ.  Matthew warns us that when we fast, not to look gloomy like the hypocrites.  We need to do what we do for our interior growth and wholeness rather than putting on a show for others.  Do we have our faces washed and our clothes clean as we go forth in how we live our daily lives?

Life has a way of taking us by surprises.  I pose two questions from Barbara Reid, OP for each of us to reflect upon:

  1. Has anything knocked me off course this year? Change in my health?  Transition in my life at this time?  As you walk the Lenten journey, try to take one small step to bounce back.

Sometimes it is the smallest of steps that begin to move mountains.

  1. What is your hope at the end of this lent for yourself? For us?

Prayer, fasting and works of love; these are the steps of our Lenten journey for the next forty days.

May we reach out to others in mercy and peace.

May we see the faces of Christ in those we see each day both here at home and in our surroundings.

May we show our compassion and care.

And may we sing for the freedom of all the oppressed.

We go forth in faith to walk together on this Lenten journey