Ash Wednesday – March 2, 2022
In his Lenten message to the Church this year, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:9-10).
In quoting Saint Paul, the Holy Father invites us to reflect upon the urgency of using the time that God has given to each of us to sow goodness in our lives and in our world with a view to a future harvest. And Lent, Pope Francis goes on, is the opportune time for us to recollect our thoughts and to move forward with resolve, seeking to fulfill our baptismal promises to make the pattern of Jesus’ life our own.
Essentially, Pope Francis reminds us to make as our own the words of the Old Testament prophet Joel, who proclaims, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”
Joel calls us to change our lives – to set aside all that keeps us from reflecting the life of God within our own lives. But he boldly challenges us to enter into a dialogue with God not merely through gestures and religious practices – but by peering intensely into our hearts to insure that our spirit – the core of our being – is honest and pure and open to the transforming power and presence of God. And “sowing goodness for the benefit of others frees us from narrow self-interest, infuses our actions with gratuitousness, and makes us part of the magnificent horizon of God’s benevolent plan” (Pope Francis).
In inviting us to place our faith and trust in the Lord as the surest means of responding to the Apostle Paul’s appeal to never tire of doing good, Pope Francis provides us with some practical reminders of how we achieve this noble end.
“Let us not grow tired of praying. … “Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives or of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, knowing that God never tires of forgiving.” … And “let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors.”
Today, as we begin our Lenten journey and embrace these traditional disciplines of Lent, we have been asked by Pope Francis to use our Ash Wednesday observance as a time of prayer and fasting for our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine. May our prayers rise to the heavens as we implore our God to sustain these good and innocent people and bring an end to the senseless aggression that is being laid upon them. May we sacrifice for their sake. And may we give from our bounty to generously support them in their fight against evil. Collections will be taken up in all of our churches either today or here in our Cathedral and in many other parishes on this coming weekend.
Our Lenten journey, my brothers and sisters, draws us to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. May we see this season of conversion as the opportune time for us to do good, to open our lives to the weak and the poor and so come to experience the fullness of joy at Easter and the glory of God in our midst this day.