Ash Wednesday

“Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”    Ash Wednesday!!!     The day to receive ashes! The day when LOTS of people flock to church to receive ashes.
In our church all 6 masses were packed with people.  2 Lenten services as well…. You never see so many children in church at Sunday Masses! Where do they come from???
We, priests, were happy that we could serve all those people and mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross. “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”     “Repent and believe in the gospel …”.  And as St. Paul encourages us –“be reconciled to God”.

We enter Lent. A special time, a sacred time. A time of unity with Jesus who suffered and died for us…  This morning I got an email with this words. I share them with you, so your Lent might be fruitfull…

 “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others” (Matthew 6:2). Almsgiving…the first pillar of Lent. Lent is a time when we should start looking at things we have that the poor may need. Maybe you have some clothing that you haven’t worn in years that could keep a homeless person warm at night. Maybe you could donate a few bucks here and there to people who need it a little more than you. Maybe you could spend some time hanging out at a local soup kitchen, giving some human contact to people who usually get none. In this first pillar we seek to give to God through those around us, to those in most need just as Christ himself did during his Earthly life.

“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6). Prayer…the second pillar of Lent. Through prayer we seek to connect ourselves to God in a very real way, by communicating directly with Him. During Lent we should find some more time during each day to pray. There are so many powerful ways to do this…a few extra decades of the rosary, read some more scripture, receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist more regularly, a couple extra Hail Mary’s before going to bed, or even just finding a short period of time each day to just sit and be quiet just to be with God. The choice is yours, but the idea is to unite yourself more closely to our Heavenly Father through prayer, just as Christ did during his Earthly life (think of the Agony in the Garden).

“When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matthew 6:17-18). Fasting…the third pillar of Lent. Everyone is familiar with the age old tradition of “giving up something for Lent.” But I don’t think people are as familiar with the reason why we “give up something.” When we fast, we create a certain degree of discomfort, a certain hole in ourselves. Whether the fasting consists of giving up desserts, soda, snacking, television, Facebook, or anything else, the fasting still creates a hole within ourselves… a hole that we seek to allow God to fill. When we give up simple things such as those listed above, we show God that he is more important to us than any of these material things. We can live without them, but we could never live without God. When we fast, we seek to unite ourselves with God through suffering and attaching ourselves to God, just as Christ did during his Earthly life.

Through these three pillars of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting we seek to give, give, give. Give it all up to God. Give Him material things, your prayer life, and a spirit of suffering. Lent is the perfect time of year to grow in holiness, to let God into our lives. If we can all do this, make Lent a time of truly turning to God, of allowing him to fill every part of our lives, we will all be able to make Easter the high point of the year that it needs to be. There is no resurrection without the cross, so if we want to unite ourselves with the resurrection, the receiving of life everlasting, we must first unite ourselves with the suffering of the cross, the complete giving of self to God.

“Heavenly Father, help me to make this Lenten Season a period of real growth in holiness. Help me to turn myself to you through almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. I know that this will not be easy, but with your guidance I trust that these practices will help me to grow in your love, allowing you to live within and through me. Be with me, bless me, guide me that through the sufferings of Lent I will find the resurrection of Easter that much more special.”