HOMILY FOR ASH WEDNESDAY. THE FIRST DAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: GET CLOSER TO GOD
BY: Fr. Benny Tuazon
In the day’s readings, the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), we are being prepared for a good experience of the next forty days of prayer, fasting and doing acts of charity. The first two readings were to the point in reminding us that our goal is to inch closer to God. Specifically, He wants us to go back to Him. Repent! This is not just about an external act but deep to and from the heart. Jesus died for us. Our appreciation and recognition of that sacrifice requires no less than our giving of our whole self, mind, heart, strength and soul.
Today, we go to church to have our forehead applied with ash, which came from the palms of Palm Sunday, in the form of a cross. But we should be reminded that it is not about the ash. It is symbolic and a poor appreciation of the essence of beginning the Lenten Season. At most, it is just but one symbol of this significant celebration.
Today also, priests wear violet vestments and the church is adorned similarly as well. Readings are not anymore chronological but choiced cuts. The readings are mainly to guide us to repentance and encourage us to pray, fast, and do acts of charity as complimentary acts. The songs are more solemn and carry the theme of repentance. The Alleluia and Gloria are omitted.
Devotions like the Stations of the Cross and rosaries are prayed more than the usual. These days will and should be intense. The devil will do its job of luring us away if not make us half-hearted in our Lenten journey. The ash may not even last through the end of the day. Does it mean that we are done with our Lenten season? Lent did not go with the ash. What the ash had done was to mark not only our foreheads but also our hearts. It was a mark of repentance. It was a reminder of our weakness and limitation. It brought us a sense of urgency and alacrity in running back towards God. These are serious days. It is not about having a serious face but a serious heart. It is about focusing on God who we want to embrace for good. At the same time, it is also focusing on the ways of evil that we may avoid and counter them.
Incidentally, the world also celebrates Valentine’s Day today. It is known to many as a day of love. Do we see a conflict? Yes and no. Yes, if we see Valentine’s as a day for sexual celebration of the unmarried and extra-marital affairs. No, because Christendom recognizes St. Valentine, a martyr, and promoter of love and marriage. That much, I can say. I have said it once and will say it again. These are days when we turn the tables against satan. These too, are the days when we sit at table with the Lord in the Eucharist. In other words, game face on! Watch out satan. Watch us, Lord Jesus!