March 1st Wed. Ash Wednesday

Introduction:

We start lent today with prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare for Easter. Lets do so as if this was our last lent. For we know not the time nor the hour when our souls will be required of us. Conscious of the constant need for repentance and the renewal of our faith, lets call to mind our sins…

Homily

Lent’s prayer, fasting and almsgiving follows a great tradition. Christ prayed and fasted for 40 days and tells us its the way to overcome evil. Our Lady of Medjugorje says prayer can change our violent world, and the saints say that fasting makes prayer a 1000 times more effective. Our ancestors at Lough Derg prayed and ate nothing but bread and water for 3 days; people still follow that way to inner cleansing. My father told me that his parents took only black tea and dry bread on Good Friday.

If fasting is so spiritually healing, why is it so hard to sell now. Maybe because a consumer society encourages excess in sexuality, eating and drinking. Recently, parents in a local town refused to let children take the pioneer pin for Confirmation. Do we want children drinking at the age of 12? Restraint seems foolish in today’s world. But we Christians are more than citizens of the world. Fasting is our calling, in imitation of Christ who prepared for public life by fasting. It enabled him to resist Satan’s temptation to make pleasure, power and wealth his God. We can also achieve selfless love and redeem the world by self-denial, that’s why the saints practiced it. It nourishes the soul, frees us from sin, and counteracts the world’s evils.

Ashes symbolize all that. You know the story of Jonah: God told him to preach repentance to Nineveh, the immoral city. When he did so the king and people prayed, fasted, put on ashes and were saved. Similarly our Lenten disciplines signify repentance and turning back to God. And with this goes almsgiving, notably if what we save in fasting goes to help the deprived of this world. The UN says there’s enough food in our world to feed 35 times its population. But the first world gobbles up so much everyone else starves. Fasting to give to Trocaire helps right that imbalance.

And in these three aspects of Easter preparation, nothing extraordinary’s expected of us, just to give up luxuries such as alcohol, sweets or smoking, which are bad for us anyway. To pray more, morning and evening, and to give out of our excess to the poor. All this ensures that our hearts will be cleansed to welcome our Easter Lord. He gave all for us on the cross. We give something back by Lenten disciplines and thereby store up riches in heaven. For this world passes but he is lord of life, love goodness and salvation forever and ever amen.

So as God’s people committing ourselves in this time to fresh prayer, fasting and charity so as to welcome the Risen Lord with renewed hearts, we make our profession of faith…

Prayers of the faithful

For our Holy father the Pope and all the pastors of the church that they may lead the people of God and all the people of the world back to the fullness of Faith this lent and Easter…

For civil leaders that they may put no obstacle in the way of the renewed faith of the people this lent..

For our wonderful youth that lent may be a time of commitment to Christ and the church, especially those who have drifted from the faith. May our prayer and fasting help them to come home..

For ourselves that this time of lent may be a time of grace, peace and inner growth for us as we devote ourselves to self-denial, prayer and almsgiving in imitation of Our Divine Lord..

For those of our world who reject God, that they may heed the call of Christ to repent and believe, and so find rest and happiness and salvation for their souls..

For the sick the aged the lonely and oppressed that through our care this Easter they may know the healing presence of God’s love

For the dead, especially those who need our prayers to come to the fullness of light and life, that this season of grace may be a final liberation for them and especially for those holy souls who have no one to pray for them…

And we ask these our prayers in this grace-filled time of lent when the ashes on our head symbolize the rekindling of grace and holiness in our hearts, through Christ our Lord amen.

Reflection:

Most visionaries of recent times, from Fatima to Lourdes to modern day Medjugorje, give us a message of prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners. They see this as urgent and related to peace in the world. We pray for that tonight as we embark on our lent of holy disciplines that we may obey the Lord’s command to repent and believe and so bring others to new life in God. And we ask Mother Mary to help is in this..Hail Mary

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