Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Ash Wednesday and therefore we mark the beginning of the season of Lent, the time of renewal of our faith and of reconciliation with God. This season of Lent is truly a special time to remind us of the great and wonderful grace of God’s love, how He willingly embraced us and wanted us all to be reunited with Him, no longer separated from Him because of our sins.
On this day, all of us focus our attention on the most merciful love and generosity of God in loving us and in showing us so much compassion despite everything that we have done towards Him, all the times we have not obeyed Him and wandered far off away from His path. God has always sought us and tried to call us back to Him, and here we are now, bruised and broken, humbly seeking the Lord to be forgiven and to be reconciled to Him.
On this Ash Wednesday, as it is named, we receive the imposition of ashes on our heads as the symbolic and powerful reminder that first and foremost, we are all sinners, through our disobedience against God, and as said, that from the dust we have come from and thus to dust to we shall return. This highlights to us the mortality of our human bodies and existences, how vulnerable and weak we are, and how we need God to be with us, to be the strength and guidance that we need, at all times.
The imposition of ashes also reminds us of our humble selves, that we are truly nothing before the Lord, all of our achievements and prideful glory, all of our power and wealth, all are nothing compared to the glory of God. And there is nothing in this world that is also everlasting. If we think that our power, wealth and glory can be sustained forever, then it will take just a little for us to be reminded how limited we are, and how we will not bring all these with us on the journey to the life to come.
These ashes, made from the burning of the remnants of the dried blessed palms from the previous year is a reminder that nothing in this world is permanent, and death will come to us as surely as we know that no one can escape death, and that is why these ashes remind us both of our mortality as well as what awaits us, should we remain in the state of sin, unreconciled with God, unredeemed and unforgiven from our sins. Thus, we humble ourselves with these ashes, asking God for His forgiveness and mercy.
Today we also mark our commemoration of Ash Wednesday with fasting and abstinence, as we restrain our own physical desires and also focus our attention from our bodily needs, and refocus our attention on the Lord. Today we fast such that we only have a single full meal and two smaller meals, so that we can keep our mind away from the temptations of greed and desire, from the desire of worldly goods and to help control ourselves.
We also abstain from the consumption of meat today, as well as abstaining from other forms of vices and wicked deeds, actions and other things in our lives, so that we remind ourselves of the conscious efforts and work that we have to do if we want to be truly dedicated as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord and committing ourselves to a new life and existence, one no longer led and guided by our selfish desires but rather by our faith in God.
But as the Lord said in our Gospel passage today, are we truly genuine in our regret and remorse for our sins, in our practice of fasting and abstinence, as well as how we are going to spend this time and season of Lent? Are we sincere in our devotion to God and in our faith in Him? God has always loved us and wanted us to find the way to Him, and this is the time for us to rediscover the love we ought to have for Him. Let our fasting and abstinence be the genuine show of our sincerity in faith, our sign of true love for God.
During this period of time, we are preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebration of the Holy Week and Easter, when we shall celebrate and commemorate the occasion of Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, and finally His triumph and glorious Resurrection, the most important celebration of all in our Christian faith. It is so important that we are given this time and opportunity to properly get ourselves ready.
In order for us to prepare ourselves well for those series of celebrations and commemorations, that is why we have this entire season of Lent, a period of over forty days long, as it spanned forty days excluding the Sundays of Lent, which marked the time of preparation and spiritual renewal, a time of reconnection with God and a return to His righteousness and way.
That is why today we are called to reflect both on our lives and on our faith, and consider how each and every one of us can draw ourselves closer to God, to repent and turn away from our sins, abandon our recklessness in life and our ignorance of God and His ways. And in all of our Lenten observances, in our fasting and abstinence, let us all do them with genuine commitment and desire to be good and faithful Christians.
Let us all be exemplary in our actions and conduct, in how we live our lives so that we may help one another in reaching out to the Lord and find our way to His salvation. May the Lord help us and strengthen us to persevere in our faith, and help us in making our lives more and more Christ-like. Let us humble ourselves and seek the Lord for His healing, for all of the corruption and wickedness of our sins.
May God bless us all, and may He bless our Lenten observances beginning today. May these blessed ashes that we have been imposed with help to remind us of our humanity, mortality and sinfulness, and remind us also of the love that God has for us, in forgiving us and showing us compassion and enduring love. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.