It Is Not an Easy Road, but Jesus Walks with Us
Readings: 1st: Jo 2:12-18; Ps: 50; 2nd: II Cor 5:20. 6, 2; Gos: Mt 6:1-6. 16-18
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season of the Church’s Liturgical Year. According to the Church’s teaching, the weekdays of Lent from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Palm Sunday take precedence over the memorial of the saints.
Lent is not just a period of “fulfilling an obligation imposed on us by the church” during this period of the year. Instead, it marks the beginning of an essential part of our salvific history. It is truly a season of re-living or re-enacting the entire Paschal Mystery of Christ.
Hence, today’s readings remind us of the importance of this season of Lent, which begins with our celebration of Ash Wednesday. The prophet Joel calls us to repentance through: “Fasting, mourning, and weeping.” While Paul calls this season: “A moment of grace, a favorable time, and of course, the day of salvation.”
Hence, he admonished us to use this season to reconcile ourselves with both men and God. Like our first reading, the gospel reminds us of the most important virtues of this season: “almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.” Not only did it highlight these virtues, but it also reminds us that our Lenten observance should be carried out with humility.
According to Old Testament practices, wearing ash is a sign of shame, defeat, and most importantly, a symbol of repentance. For us Christians, it means more than these. It also marks an essential point in our history of salvation. Though the ash we are going to receive today is a symbol of death, it strengthens our hope of rising with Christ. Hence, Paul reminds us that: “If we die with Christ, we will also rise with him” (Romanos 6:8).
Today, we shall freely receive the ash made from the palms of the last Palm Sunday. This ash is a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessings of the Church. It symbolizes our voluntary decision and willingness to walk and suffer with Christ this season. It also reminds us that life passes away on Earth. Hence, the Church reminds us of this fact through these words: “Remember, Man you are dust, and unto dust, you shall return.”
The lantern season does not end with Ash Wednesday as many of us think. This is because many will simply receive the ash today and disappear. No, this is not the right way to observe this season. The best way to celebrate the Lenten season is by attending liturgical functions like Stations of the Cross and retreats.
It also involves taking advantage of the sacraments, especially sacraments of reconciliation, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and going on pilgrimages. It involves moments of profound reflections on the mystery of our salvation. It is a period of reconciliation, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, as our readings remind us today. Of course, we must not forget that this is season provides us an excellent opportunity to carry out both spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Finally, it is important to remind us that we need a lot of discipline, courage, perseverance, faith, and tranquility of mind to triumph this season. So, with the psalmist, let us implore the Lord this season: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
Peace be with you!