First Reading: Joel 2:12-18; Psalm: 51. R. v. 3a; Second Reading: 2Cor 5:20-6.2; Gospel: Mt 6:1-6. 16-18
A CALL TO REPENTANCE
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day we begin our 40 days Lenten journey to the desert. A journey of fasting prayer, and almsgiving. This retreat to the desert is an imitation of Jesus’ retreat to the wilderness for 40 days; where he fasted, prayed, and overcame the Devil (Lk 4:1-13). Similarly, the Church calls us in this period of Lent to fast, pray, and overcome the temptations of the Devil through repentance and works of charity.
We hear God calling us today through the prophet Joel, “return to me with all heart, with fasting weeping, and mourning; and tear your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and repents of evil.” We have a very striking portrayal of God here. If we met someone who was compassionate, we would be drawn to them. But no one is infinitely merciful as our God. Lent therefore offers us an enormous opportunity to receive God’s mercy through repentance and penance.
Our God is all tenderness and compassionate. Through Christ God has revealed his great love and mercy for us in the sacraments. The period of Lent reminds us of the great need of leveraging on the graces of the sacraments; especially the sacrament of confession which offers us the grace to remain united with God. The closer we come to God on this journey of 40 days, the more we will find ourselves drawn to the three practices Jesus mentioned in the gospel reading of today – almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
Today, we shall be signed with ashes on our foreheads. Ash is a symbol of mourning and repentance (Nm 19:9-10, 17-18). It is a sign of our desire to begin this journey in a spirit of repentance and reconciliation. In this 40 days journey, let us beware of the Devil and everything that will distract us from participating fully in our Lenten duties. These Lenten duties include confessions, Stations of the Cross, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and true repentance. We should also avoid hurtful words, grudges, gossips, bitterness, and unforgiveness so as to have a fruitful Lenten season.
Few things to remember at Lent:
- Go for confession
- Abstain from meat today and all Fridays of Lent.
- Fasting is mandatory today except for health reasons.
Have a fruitful Lenten Season.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, draw us back to you as we begin our Lenten journey today. Amen.