YEAR C: HOMILY FOR ASH WEDNESDAY
HOMILY THEME: INVITATION TO REPENTANCE
BY: Fr.Cyril Unachukwu CCE
HOMILY: With the liturgy of today we begin the season of Lent, a period of forty days, a season of grace and re-edification, a season of return to the fount of life, a season in which we bring our brokenness before the Lord and allow ourselves to be totally healed by God through our practice of the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Through our spiritual journey in this Season, may we be renewed in every facet of our lives; Amen.
Very significant in the Liturgy of today is the placement of ashes on our foreheads with those humbling and powerful words “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is from this ritual with ashes within the Liturgy that this day received its name as Ash Wednesday pointing decisively to the penitential nature of the Season of Lent which it initiates.
The practice of the reception of ashes reminds us of our nothingness and of our need and total dependence on the grace and mercy of God. It is very unfortunate that sometimes, the transient things of this world make us feel swollen and completely independent; but then at some critical moments of our lives we recognise how helpless we are even when surrounded in a surplus manner by the things of this world.
At those moments, we realise that it is truly “God or nothing!” Yes! “God is enough!” This swollenness is a visible symptom of an inner disorder and severe spiritual health condition. Being reminded of our nothingness and emptiness is an invitation to deflect ourselves by expelling from ourselves, through intense spiritual exercises, of those mundane viruses and bacteria of sin that have left us unattractive and spiritually disfigured. Through the words of the Prophet Joel in the First Reading (Joel 2:12-18), God invites us back to Himself for He is the only antidote and cure to our wretchedness; “let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for He is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.”
Our response to the invitation of God is never without some concrete effort from our own end because “God who created us with us does not save us with us.” The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel Reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) of today delineated for us the paths to follow and the manner to walk through this paths; the path of prayer, fasting and alms-giving; all of which traditionally constitute the three disciplines of the Season of Lent.
These three paths must be followed in a quiet and personal manner such that “our Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” This is so because the spiritual life is not noisy but rather calm, quiet and ever lively. In prayers we reconnect and communicate with our Father who is ever ready to listen to us. In fasting we humbly chastise ourselves for the many times we truncated our relationships with God through our wrong choices and actions and in so doing suffocate more and more every desire to sin within us. In Alms-giving we bring the fruits of our reunion with God to our brothers and sisters so that they can experience with us how good and pleasant it is to be in communion with God. Only in so doing are we reconciled to God as Saint Paul exalts us in the Second Reading (2 Cor 5:20-6:2) and prepare ourselves for the celebration of the paschal festivities both of which constitute the focus of this season of grace.
“Have mercy on us, Lord, for we have sinned” and grant us the grace of a fruitful Lenten journey; Amen. I wish you an experience of the transformatory power of this Season; Fr Cyril CCE