Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the beginning of the holy and solemn season of Lent, the forty days period that begins today and ends on the beginning of the Holy Week, as a season of preparation for the approaching celebration of the most important aspects of our faith, that is the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection from the dead.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of that penitential season, a time for us to reflect on ourselves and on our own lives, in terms of what we had done in this life and in what we have failed to do as the Lord commanded us. This is a time for us to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, taking advantage of the rich mercy and love which He had shown us through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In today’s readings, first taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, the content is one of humble lamentation and begging for supplication, by the people of God who had longed for a long period of time, the salvation in God. They have longed for the rescue and the help which only our Lord could give, the true joy and happiness which only He can give us and nothing else of this world could.
And in that same reading, we can see how our Lord Himself also desired for the salvation of His beloved people, no matter how sinful or wicked they were. It is only one thing that the Lord wants out of them, that is for them to abandon their sins, and from then on to love Him with all of their hearts and with the full and complete strength of their beings.
Sin is a great bane for mankind, that is the one which has separated us from the love of God, and it has caused us much great sufferings in this world. Before sin entered into the world and into the hearts of men, everything were good and perfect, and mankind were destined for a life in eternal joy and happiness as the Lord intended it, to live with Him and reign with Him forever.
Yet, our pride, our desire and greed, our emotions and our prejudice had prevented us from accomplishing such a wondrous life. Our ancestors were tempted and they failed. They gave in to the temptation of Satan, that is the temptation of knowledge. And ever since then, mankind had been in rebellion against God, and without God, mankind cannot stand up and preserve themselves, for truly we need God in our daily life.
Yes, our Lord and God provided us with everything that we need and He knows all that we will ever need. There is absolutely no need to worry for anything, as if we trust in Him, we shall never be disappointed. But, many of us continue to worry about the things of this world, and we are often swayed to follow our peers and be corrupted by the many concerns and pleasures of this world, the pleasures of the flesh.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, ever since sin entered into the hearts of men, we have been made dirty and unworthy, as desire and greed became a part of us. We are not easy to be satisfied, and we also easily becoming jealous and hateful towards others, all because of desire and vanity, pride and arrogance, thinking that the world is all about us and everything revolves around us.
And today in the Gospel, God made it clear to us that He meant business. He showed the depth of our wickedness as even in fasting we can commit sin, by fasting for the sake of doing it, or even worse, as the Pharisees had done it, by showing off their supposed piety by fasting very publicly and openly to gain human praise and earthly prestige, but in their hearts there was no place for God.
In their pride and arrogance, they showed the worst human qualities and capacities for sin and wickedness. They were so caught up in their pride, for being supposedly the elites of the society and the role models in faith, that they forgot to give glory to God, the One whom they ought to serve and welcome into the world. Instead, they rejected Him and piled troubles and obstacles upon obstacles in God’s work of salvation, and as a result, they were accursed and rejected as well by God.
What is the best attitude, brothers and sisters? What is the attitude we should adopt then? It is through humility and understanding of our own sinfulness, and in knowing the corruptions and wickedness that had separated us from the Lord, then we can be led on the right path towards salvation and life in the Lord our God. And on this day, this Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our own frailty, of our own sinfulness and wickedness, and of how much we need the Lord our God to be in our lives.
When the priest imposes the ashes upon our forehead, and with the words that accompany it, these are a reminder for all of us to know that as we are created from dust, from the earth, then to the earth too our bodies will return. Our bodies may perish when we die and turn back to the dust, but our soul is eternal and will live forever, either in eternal joy with God, or in eternal suffering in hell. And on the day of the resurrection, on the last day, God will raise us up all body and spirit, and we will rejoice forever in His glory, with a renewed body of glory, if we remain faithful to Him.
We are all reminded through this, that whatever achievements we have in this life, and whatever glory and praises we have accumulated in this life. And whatever honour and fame we have received from men, in the end all these will not benefit us. Jesus our Lord had repeated this many times, with the example of the parable telling us how a rich man piled up his great wealth and thinking he had it all secure for his future happiness and indulgence, when the Lord was in fact about to end his life there and then.
An important lesson for us all is that we should not build for ourselves a treasure that will not last. Build instead the eternal treasure and riches which we can only build through our obedience to our Lord, and not through greed and hoarding of the resources and the goods of this world. Our earthly life is just temporary, and is a precursor to the eternal life which we will all receive from God Himself at the end of time, if we remain faithful to His laws and precepts.
It is imperative therefore for us to reflect on this imposition of the ashes, and as we begin our Lenten journey, the forty days of retreat and recollection of our own lives, which is designed to help us to find our way again to the Lord and to rediscover the focus and purpose of our lives, that is to bring glory to God by our actions and deeds. We have to indeed recall the forty days of suffering and difficulties which our Lord Jesus went through as He walked in the desert for forty days and nights without food.
The devil tried to dissuade Him and pull Him away from His works of salvation by telling all sorts of lies about humanity, and taking advantage of the human emotions, needs and wants in order to prevent the salvation of many souls to be done. But the Lord Jesus remained completely obedient to the wishes of His Father in heaven, and despite the temptations, Jesus continued on without qualms and with firm conviction in the faith of the Lord.
In the same way therefore too, we will all eventually encounter difficult times in life. There will be temptations that threaten to cause us to sin and do even more wicked things. If we are unable to resist, then the lures of Satan will get to us eventually. What is at stake is nothing else than the fate we are to face, whether it be eternal suffering for our disobedience or eternal life and happiness for our obedience.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this season of Lent and begin our preparation for Easter earnestly, let us all take a step back in our lives, take the time out from our busy daily schedules, and learn to find some time to be with the Lord our God. This is a season of prayer, of sincere atonement and seeking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Fasting and abstinence are meant to help us to achieve this, and when we fast and abstain, we must have a clear goal in mind, that is to help us overcome the distraction and temptation on our way to God, and not to show it off to others.
May this season of Lent help us to become ever more faithful children and servants of our God, and may He continue to watch over us and guide us so that we will not be overcome by the forces of evil arrayed against us. God bless us all. Amen.