It Is Not An Easy Road, But Jesus Walks With Us
Rdgs: (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 Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: 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. Rather, it marks the beginning of an important 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 make use of this season in order to reconcile ourselves with both men and God. Like our first reading, the gospel reminds of the most important virtues of this season: “almsgiving, prayer and fasting.” Not only did it highlight these virtues, it also reminds us that our Lenten observance must be carried out with humility.
According to Old Testament practices, wearing ash is a sign of shame, defeat and most importantly, a sign of repentance. For us Christians, it means more than these. It also marks an important point in our history of salvation. Though, the ash we are going to receive today is a symbol of death, but it strengthens our hope of rising with Christ. Hence, Timothy reminds us that: “If we die with Christ, we will also rise with him” (2Tim.2, 11).
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 is a symbol of our voluntary decision and willingness to walk and suffer with Christ this season. It also reminds us that life passes away on Earth. Hence, we are reminded of this fact through these words: “Remember, Man is 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 Lenten season is best observed by attending liturgical functions like Stations of the Cross and retreats.
It also involves taking good advantage of the sacraments especially, the sacraments of reconciliation, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and going on pilgrimages. It involves moments of deep 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 a great opportunity to carry out both spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Finally, it is important to say that this season we need a lot of discipline, courage, perseverance, faith and tranquility of mind in order to triumph. 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!