Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Ash Wednesday, the very significant day that marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent. We begin this penitential season of Lent today, which is designed to prepare us for the coming celebrations of Holy Week, the most important events crucial and central to our faith. And that is why we spend an entire season of forty days to prepare ourselves well to celebrate that solemn occasion.
This is a time of renewal, of reconciliation and rediscovery of our true selves. This is a time that is a reminder of the journey which the people of Israel spent in the desert for forty years, as a penance from their sins and from all of their disobedience against God. We spend the forty days of Lent in remembrance of this event, remembering our own sinfulness and wickedness which had made us separated from God.
And as mentioned it is also a time of preparation, just as Jesus spent forty days in the desert before He officially began His ministry on this world. He fasted for forty days, being tempted by the devil and persevered through, and thereafter began the good works which God the Father had entrusted to Him. We prepare ourselves in our hearts and in our minds, in our flesh and in our whole being so that we may be ready to meaningfully celebrate the coming joy of Easter.
Today, each and every one of us, from the laity to the priests, from children to the eldest amongst us, and even to the rulers and kings, and to the bishops and the Pope, are to receive the blessed ashes on our forehead or on our heads, as a symbol of our repentance and penitence before God, acknowledging publicly before all that all of us are sinners without exception, and that we want to do something about these sins we have.
Let us reflect on the words which the priest utters upon imposing the blessed ashes on our foreheads, that we ought to remember that we were all dust, and to dust we shall therefore return. It is a reminder for us that no matter how great we are in this life, how much wealth we have accumulated and gained, and no matter what is our position in our society, our fame, intellect and all the greatness and glories that we have gained in life, we are all just a mortal man, filled with sin and darkness before God.
Ever since the time of Adam, the first man, whom God had crafted from mere dust to be His very own most beloved creation, carved in His own image, mankind had received the blessing of life from God. However, they have sinned and disobeyed God, and therefore, they were to suffer death as the consequence of their sins. It means that their earthly bodies made from the earth will return to the earth, and they all would face death, the ending of their earthly existence.
But God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. He has loved all of us since the beginning of creation, even though we have sinned against Him and disobeyed Him and His commandments. He did not give up on us even though He was perfectly capable of doing so. He did not destroy us even though He was indeed capable of doing so. Instead, He gave us chance after chance, which sadly many people were unaware of, and some of these even rejected God’s offer of mercy.
God is willing to forgive us, because He sees in us who we truly are, His beloved creation, which were unfortunately corrupted by the darkness of sin, by our disobedience and waywardness. Thus the ashes are also a reminder of just how sinful we have been, and a reminder for the mortality that we have because of that sin. It is a reminder that because of sin we have been made into mortal beings subject to suffering and death.
And if we remember this fact, then it is important and necessary for us all to realise that as long as we still draw breath in this world, it is never too late for us to turn away from our sinfulness, be changed and be transformed in our ways and in our actions, repent and thus be made justified and righteous before God. God is always willing to give us a chance to redeem ourselves, but if we are the very ones who rejected the Lord’s offer of mercy, then no mercy will be shown us.
Are we all going to be stubborn like the Israelites of those days and also like the Pharisees? Or are we going to allow the Lord’s mercy to come to us and work in us? Are we going to allow the Lord to work His wonders in us and cleanse us from our sins and all the sorts of corruptions deep inside our heart, mind and soul? These are the questions we should ask ourselves, and which we should ponder about even as we enter into this season of Lent.
Otherwise, this time of Lent will be meaningless and useless for us. This season of Lent will be a tremendous help for us only if we really know its significance and meaning, and it will be a time for change and conversion, allowing us to overcome our shortcomings and our sins, and be renewed by the Lord and His grace. We should follow the example of David, the king of Israel, who repented wholeheartedly before God, humbling himself and regretting all of his past sins and trespasses. And God forgave him all the sins he had committed.
It is this regret and desire to change which many of us are lacking within us, the disgusted feeling of knowing just how wrong we had been. However, it is never too late to change ourselves to be faithful and dedicated to God, for as I have mentioned, God is always merciful to us. Let us not tarry and wait, but use instead whatever moment that is available for us in order to be transformed from a creature living in darkness, tainted by our sins, into a new and pure being, as the children of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today to reflect on just how sinful we are, and how unworthy we are to receive His blessings and graces. And then let us think about just how loving and forgiving God is, when He opened for us the path to His forgiveness and mercy. In that manner, then the celebration of today’s Ash Wednesday and also the season of Lent will be meaningful for us.
Let us turn ourselves, our hearts, minds and indeed the whole being towards the Lord. Let us surrender ourselves to Him, and give Him all of our attention, especially as we enter into this holy season of Lent. May all of us have a fruitful season of Lent, filled with repentance and genuine desire to love and to serve the Lord. May the Lord hear our prayers, and may He strengthen us all in faith.
Let us all remember our shortcomings, and our sins before God and men alike. Let us remember through the ashes we received, just how corrupted and wicked we have become, and the need for a genuine turnaround and repentance. Let us help support one another, by showing through our own actions and examples, the way to reach out to the Lord and to be forgiven our sins. May the Lord bless us all and be with us always. Amen.