Ash Wednesday 2013 – Walking with Christ

Ash Wednesday 2013 – Walking with Christ

Readings: Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 50 (51); 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our Lenten journey with Christ, when we walk the road to Jerusalem; the road that leads to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Saviour. It is a time for reflection and for action; a time for faith and works. We do not journey alone, and it is fitting that we begin together marked by the sign of sinfulness and of hope: the ashes. ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return’. In these words of Genesis we are reminded of our mortality, a mortality we owe to sin; however, we are also reminded that from the ashes of death we will rise to a new life, a life everlasting. From darkness comes light; from death there is life; these ashes represent the seed ground from which we can be born anew.

We have before us forty days during which we can take stock of our lives; forty days such as Moses, Elijah and Our Lord Jesus spent in prayer and fasting to prepare themselves for a life’s work. We have a chance in this season to remind ourselves of our need to be honest before before God and one another, and to allow ourselves to be freely conformed to His divine will. Through prayer, fasting, and the giving of alms, we can dispose ourselves to receive the free gift of grace which can allow us to draw ever closer to God and share in His inner life. We can learn to be the friends of God that He wishes us to be. This process of conversion, beginning with prayer, and fortified by mortification should also allow us to see others through the eyes of faith. It will allow us to see the needs of others and dispose us correctly to works of charity and compassion.

For these reasons we should see Lent as a time of great opportunity and a cause for joy. The Church reminds us forcefully of what we should be doing all year round, but so often fail to do. For this reason we should approach Lent carefully. All too often, amidst the busy schedule of our lives, we can fail to grasp the essence of Lent. Pride can all to easily take the place of virtue as we congratulate ourselves on near super-human acts of self-denial such as giving up chocolate or good beer! Perhaps we may be tempted to display our acts of virtue to others and seek their approval and admiration. The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel should be heeded closely: Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them; When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting.

Therefore, we must choose carefully that which we shall take up – such as more regular prayer – and that which we will deny ourselves in order to dispose us to encounter God more closely. If we can heed the words of Christ we can help make this Lenten journey a time of real spiritual renewal; we can grow in faith, and hope, and charity, and we can help one another to be the Christians we are called to be.

Graham Hunt OP