SCRANTON – As hundreds of people gathered to begin the Lenten season at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Ash Wednesday, they were reminded of their need for God and encouraged to trust more deeply in God’s merciful presence.
“Saint Matthew, in today’s Gospel, reinforces the words of the prophet Joel and sets forth in practical terms the lifestyle that we are called to embrace as authentic disciples of the Lord Jesus,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said during his homily. “Pray, fast, and give alms in support of the poor. But do so not because such behavior will make us appear to be righteous. Do so because such acts for a Christian are the consequence of faithful lives rooted in Jesus, who teaches us how best to live.”
Bishop Bambera told those who had gathered for the rite of the imposition of ashes that the Lenten journey draws each one of us to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.
“Through baptism, we are brought into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which, in turn, invites us to trust in the power of God more deeply and equips us for mission – the proclamation of the “Good News” of Jesus – and the service of our sisters and brothers,” the bishop explained.
As Pope Francis marked the beginning of Lent at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina, he told the faithful that Lent is the time to let go of the frivolous.
Lent is the time, Pope Francis said, “to proclaim that God alone is Lord, to drop the pretense of being self-sufficient and the need to put ourselves at the center of things, to be the top of the class, to think that by our own abilities we can succeed in life and transform the world around us.”
“How many distractions and trifles distract us from the things that really count? How often do we get caught up in our own wants and needs, lose sight of the heart of the matter, and fail to embrace the true meaning of our lives in this world!” he added.
“Lent is a time of truth, a time to drop the masks we put on each day to appear perfect in the eyes of the world,” he said, and to “reject lies and hypocrisy. Not the lies and hypocrisies of others, but our own.”
Pope Francis also asked that the faithful use the 40 days of Lent to: “rediscover the joy, not of accumulating material goods, but of caring for those who are poor and afflicted”; to put God at the center of one’s life and pray and dialogue with him from the heart; and to become free “from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter.”