Welcome to our Special Ash Wednesday mass. It always reminds me of the story of Lourdes and Mary’s call there for a life of penance to atone for sins and bring the world back to God. Lets pray for some such renewal in our own lives this Lent..
Lourdes featured a small French girl, Bernadette Souberous. Her family were poor; they lived in one small dark room. They had to gather sticks for a fire to heat the room in winter and Bernadette was often sick, because they were living in dank conditions with scanty food to eat. One day her mother sent her up the mountain to get some sticks for the fire to cook the bit of soup they had for lunch. While gathering the sticks she suddenly saw a white light and a beautiful lady who later told her that she was the Immaculate Conception. The Lady told Bernadette to get people to build a church there where people would come to pray and be healed. She also told Bernadette that people should do penance and pray that sinful people would be converted. That’s what Ash Wednesday also tells us; to deny ourselves in some way so as to show our love for God, prepare for Easter, and help convert the world to peace. Hence Lent’s 40 days of fasting, praying and helping poor people like Bernadette.
Why forty days? Because Jesus spent that time in the desert praying and fasting before he began his public life. Why ashes?
Because ashes are a sign in the Bible of spiritual renewal and conversion. The story of Jonah in the bible illustrates this very well. In Jonah’s time there was a great city called Nineveh which was noted for unbelief and immorality. God asked Jonah to go to the city and tell the people to turn back to God and virtue. At first Jonah refused to go; he was afraid that if he went to Nineveh with a message of repentance the people there would kill him. So he ran away. But when he was in a boat trying to escape a great storm came. The sailors asked why God sent the storm. Jonah said its his fault, because he was running away from God. So they threw him in the water and a big fish swallowed Jonah up. The fish took him, still alive in its belly, to a beach near Nineveh and coughed him up on the shore. Jonah realized that he should do what God said. He went to Nineveh and said to the people that the lord was angry with them because of their evil ways. he asked them to repent or they would be destroyed. Heartstruck, the king of the city came down from his throne, put ashes on his head, and told the people to do the same. The city was saved.
By wearing ashes this Wednesday, we signify similar repentance. We say were going to give up what’s wrong in our lives to prepare for Jesus’s coming at Easter and to better follow him and his holy church. We also commit ourselves to some extra prayer and charity. We do so not only for our own spiritual welfare but that of the whole world. For we Christians are meant to the light of Christ to our broken world. So in that spirit of conversion and renewal in heart and soul lets come forward now for the ashes. And now with the sign of the ashes on our heads we pray that this Lent and Easter may be a special time of prayer, penance and giving to the poor to show that we want to be faithful followers of Christ and his church, and to help Him bring the whole world back to God.
Prayers of the Faithful
We pray for our Holy Father and all the leaders of the church, that this Lent they may be renewed in Spirit for their great work in the church and for the world..
We pray for civil leaders that the world of politics may be cleansed of corruption and truly serve all the people, especially the poor and oppressed..
We pray for youth that this lent any who have strayed may return to God and their loving family in Christ, the holy church..
We pray for people in Ireland and around the world that they may be converted to God, to peace and to all that right and true.
We pray for ourselves and our families that God may bless us this Lent and Easter with his special grace, and that we may draw ever closer to him and to our loved ones…
For the sick and the poor that through our little efforts to help they may come to better conditions..
That Mother Mary may bless us all this lent and Easter and bring all to the healing font of confession and penance..
For the dead, that their work in this world over, they may come safely to their heavenly home with the help of our prayers..
And we ask all these our prayers through Christ Our Lord who resisted the temptations in the desert on our behalf, and who intercedes for us forever before the Father in heaven, amen.
Every year I climb Croagh Patrick. On the last Sunday in July thousands of pilgrims make their way up the mountain, often in difficult conditions, praying at stations along the way. At the top they attend mass. Many try to climb barefoot and start early in the morning to be at the top for the first mass at 8.30. Once I saw a man of over seventy climbing in his bare feet to be there for the mass. All this, like St.Parick’s purgatory remind us the great tradition of prayer and penance in these Islands. Lets pray to Mother Mary that we will continue that tradition this Lent for the good of all, for prayer is the most powerful thing on earth and penance makes it a thousand times more powerful..Hail Mary