Lent has come round again, and our readings echo the themes of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare for Christ’s birth with renewed hearts. Lets confess now any sin as we begin lent..
Welcome to our Special Ash Wednesday mass. You know the story of Lourdes. There was a small girl Bernadette in France. Her family was poor and 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 such 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 great white light and a beautiful lady who later told her that she was mother Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception, a term Bernadette couldn’t have known. Mary told Bernadette to get people to build a church there where people would come to pray and be healed. And she told Bernadette that people should do penance and pray for the conversion of sinners. Penance, giving up something to show our love for God is also part of lent. With prayer & charity its how we purify ourselves and prepare for Easter. During 40 days of lent we fast or do penance, pray and give something to help poor people.
In effect, Lent features the main things Our Lady asked of Bernadette. But why forty days? Because Jesus spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting before he began his public life. And why do we begin with Ash Wednesday, why the ashes. Because ashes are a sign in the Bible of turning from sin and back to God. A story from the Bible Illustrates this, the story of Jonah. In Jonah’s time there was a great city called Ninevah and it was a den of iniquity. God told Jonah to go to it, and tell the people to change, believe in God again and do good. At first Jonah refused to do what God asked; he was afraid that if he went to Nineveh the people would kill him, so he ran away. But when he was in the boat fleeing from God a great storm came and the sailors said: “why did God send this storm?”. Jonah said it was his fault, and asked them to throw him into the water so that the storm would stop. They did so, and a big fish swallowed him up. The big fish took Jonah, who was still alive in its belly, to a place near Nineveh, and caughed him up on the shore. Eventually, Jonah realised he should do what God said. He went to Nineveh and said the lord was angry with them because of their evil ways. He told them to repent so that God wouldn’t destroy the city. Touched, the king of Nineveh repented, left his palace, put ashes on his head, and told the people to do the same.
We promise a similar conversion when we wear ashes at the beginning of lent. We say were going to change ungodly disordered things in our life to prepare for Jesus’s coming at Easter, and to be better followers of him who called us out of darkness into God’s undying light. So today we put the ashes on our forehead to show that we want to begin lent in a new spirit of penance, prayer and concern for the poor like Our Lady also told Bernadette. So in that spirit of renewing our souls in Christ, 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 Jesus and his church..I believe..
Prayers of the Faithful
And as God’s people lets pray for what we need this lent.
For all people in Ireland and around the world, that they may be converted to God and to peace and to all that’s good….
For the leaders of the church at this time that they may never tire of calling the people of the world to peace and holiness..
We pray for our civil leaders that like the ruler of Nineveh, they may keep God in their lives, and rule with integrity..
For youth, that this lent may be a special time of recommitment for them to what they promised at Baptism and Confirmation..
We pray for ourselves that God may bless us this lent and Easter
with his special grace, and that we may draw closer to him and to each other within our families…
For the sick and the poor that through our little efforts to help, they may, like Bernadette’s family, come to better conditions..
For the dead that they may come to the fullness of life in heaven with the help our continuing charitable prayers..
And we ask all these our prayers through Christ Our Lord, amen
I suppose the story of Christ in the desert is each person’s story. For the key choice we all face, is to serve God or mamnon, to serve others or ourselves alone. Christ went into the wilderness to fast and pray to resist these temptations. Because he was human as well as divine, the temptations were real. So he can identify with us in our weakness. Lets pray to Mother mary that she will give us the same strength as Christ had, as we’re helped by this sacred time of Lent and its disciplines..Hail Mary