This week we begin our annual season of renewal with Ash Wednesday. The blessed ashes that will be placed on our foreheads are made from the palms of last year’s Palm Sunday. As Jesus was welcomed into the Holy City of Jerusalem the last week of his life, he was met with crowds carrying palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna to our King!” But we know that within a week the tide of popular opinion turned against Jesus and the very people that had shouted “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” on Good Friday.
Receiving the ashes on Ash Wednesday, we recognize that we, too, are fickle. While we proclaim Jesus as Messiah and King with our lips, our lives, far too often betray Jesus. The Season of Lent affords us the opportunity to turn back to him with all our heart, all our mind and all our strength. It is a season of grace and renewal.
Traditionally, we practice the holy disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent. These Lenten disciplines afford us the opportunity to both do the good that we should do and abstain from things that keep us from doing that good. While some people today downplay the importance of ‘giving up’ of things during Lent, I believe that this practice remains important. The words “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same root word. Discipleship requires discipline. Willingly giving up things, even good things, for a greater good, strengthens us as disciples. As in most cases, it is not a question of “either/or,” but of “both/and.”
Please remember that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are penitential days in which we voluntarily fast from food and abstain from meat. All the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat. Each Friday of Lent we will hold the Stations of the Cross in church. Let us make it a Lenten devotion of the entire parish family.
May we support one another and encourage one another as we enter this important season of grace that will lead us from the ashes of Ash Wednesday to the living waters of the baptismal font of Easter Sunday in which we will be renewed in our baptismal promises. Happy Lent!
See you at Mass!