Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we mark the beginning of the forty days of the season of Lent. On this Ash Wednesday, as we celebrate it every year, blessed ashes are imposed on the foreheads or heads of the faithful, reminding them of the penitential nature of this season. The time of Lent is a time of preparation for us to prepare ourselves in our hearts, minds and our whole being for the upcoming celebration of the mysteries of the Holy Week and Easter.
Ash Wednesday mark the beginning of this wonderful season and time, a time to turn inwards into ourselves and reflect about our lives, our actions and deeds thus far, whether everything has been going on well and whether we are in good standing with God, or whether we have lapsed and fallen along the way, due to the temptations we face in life, and due to our inability to resist the allures of the devil who is constantly trying to undermine us and drag us into sin.
On this day, the ashes are imposed on our heads with the words uttered by the priest, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ These words remind each and every one of us that we are mortals and mere creation, and that we were created from dust and had the breath of life given to us by God, as mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Without God we are nothing, and without His love and grace, our existence is empty and meaningless.
Yet, many of us have forgotten about God and His love for us, and instead, we were busy with our many concerns and pursuits in this world. We spent most of our time trying to earn ourselves more money, more prestige, more worldly goods, praise from others, more pleasure and other things that led to our further slide deeper and deeper into sin.
Many of us are also too proud to admit that we have been wrong and mistaken, sinful and unworthy. We think that nothing can go wrong in our own lives, and that we are in control of everything we do. We think that we are the masters of our own lives and everything have to go in accordance to what we desire it to be, and when things do not go according to our desire, we end up becoming angry, jealous and negative.
In the world we live in today, we are inundated and often overwhelmed from every possible sources with the subliminal and often hidden messages, which are the ways that the devil tempt us with, of the materialistic and hedonistic way of life many of us are familiar with. We are presented with a way of life centred on our very selves, on the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ at the main focus, and we are conditioned to be selfish, to put our needs and desires ahead of others.
But let us ask ourselves, what does gaining more power, more wealth, more glory in this world, more prestige and status and all the other things we often desire in our lives can do to us? Can all these things last forever? Can all of them withstand the test of time, fire and all other things that often cause us sorrow because they can destroy all these things we deem to be precious to us?
Can any of those things I mentioned extend our life in this world for even a single second, or even a small fraction of a second? No! None of these will come to any use when the time appointed by the Lord for each and every one of us come upon us, the time of our death. That is the fact and reality which all of us must understand and be aware of, that all man must die. Death is the only certainty in life, and nothing else is less certain than the time of death.
That is why beginning from this Ash Wednesday and throughout the season of Lent, we are all invited to take a break from our daily schedules, business and all the things that have preoccupied us all these while. Year after year, the season of Lent represent a time for us to prepare ourselves, in mind, heart and body, to be able to celebrate the most important mysteries and aspects of our faith with proper disposition and understanding.
We must realise that we are mere mortals, and we will one day die, and we have to face this fact. Many of us are in fact obsessed and desiring to find ways to prevent death, or at least postpone the onset of death. We spent many hours and much money trying to find ways to keep ourselves healthy and looking young, some even resorting to medicines and physical surgeries and modifications, in order to make ourselves look younger and healthier, but how do all these things benefit us?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have mentioned earlier, our existence and life has no meaning without God, for it is God Who gave us our life, the breath of life He has given to each one of us. And just as He has freely given this life to each one of us, He is also free to take back the life at the time of His choosing, and it is not for us to decide when we are to die. Today, we all receive the ashes on our foreheads as reminders for our mortality and our sins.
For sin has corrupted us all, as the disease that is slowly consuming us from within. Sin is caused by our disobedience and refusal to follow the Lord’s will, and instead, following our own desires and wants, we rebelled against God and sin entered into our hearts. And unless if we do something about our sinful and corrupted state, we will not be allowed to enter into the new life and the eternal glory which God has prepared for us, His people.
We must be purified and cleansed before we are considered worthy of the Lord, and in order to achieve this, we must be willing to repent and turn away from all the sins and wicked things we do in life. Some of us are afraid to do so, because we are afraid that God is angry with us and therefore we hide from Him, and pretend as if everything is going fine. But if we do so, we are only lying to ourselves, and just as He knew about the sins committed by Adam and Eve, who pretended at first not to know anything about what they had done, God Who knows everything also knows every single sins we have committed, from the smallest to the greatest.
God knows that we have sinned, and He is disgusted and angry at all the sins we have committed. But His great love for us is far greater than His anger and disgust at us, and instead of being angry, He is rather more worried about us, on what will happen to us should we continue to walk in our path of sin. He is always ready to give us another chance, to show us the way back to His embrace and to love us once again fully with all of His most loving heart. However, it is us mankind who have always been stubborn and rejected His attempts to reconcile us with Him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we enter into this sacred and contemplative season of Lent, and as we receive the blessed ashes on our forehead, let us first and foremost recognise that we are sinners and we are in need of help. And there is no one else we can turn to besides the Lord Himself. He is ever ready to welcome us back and to love us back fully as He had done before, but are we willing to open ourselves to accept His free offering of love and forgiveness?
During this season of Lent, we practice fasting and abstinence, as ways for us to restrain our human desires and to open ourselves to contemplation and direct our thoughts towards the Lord. However, when we fast and abstain from certain pleasures in life, we must also keep in mind that we must do them with the right reason in mind, or else, as mentioned in the Gospel today, we will end up falling back into sin. Do not fast or abstain for the sake of being praised by others, but rather because we want to return to God’s loving embrace.
Let us all then renew our faith in God, and commit ourselves to a new life, turning away from all the past sins we have committed, discarding from ourselves, the anger, the jealousy, the greed, the worldly desires and all that have thus far been obstacles in our journey back towards the Lord. May this time of Lent be a turning point in our lives, that we may reorientate ourselves towards God, to He Who loves us and reconcile ourselves with Him. May God be with us always, throughout this journey of faith. Amen.