ASH WEDNESDAY

 

 

As Ash Wednesday begins, there is a palpable sense of drama.  The prophet Joel thunders, “Blow the trumpet…proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people.”  St. Paul quotes the scripture, “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”  Then goes on and exclaims, “Behold this is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

This heart thumping urgency is of course easily explainable for a people who thought Jesus’ return was imminent; a people who risked their lives each time they professed their belief in Christ.  Now some two thousand years later, when we look on those who shout about the end of the world as on the fringe and we are comfortable in our majority Christian country, it is hard to summon that same kind of fevered excitement.

Yet, maybe this is a time in history, maybe this Lent, is precisely the time to blow the trumpet again.   There is a new Evangelization, a new necessity of proclaiming our Amazing God, of rejoicing in the life we have with Jesus, of expressing pride in our Catholic faith.  Now is the acceptable time.  Now is a time of salvation.

For this word of God which promises peace and salvation should be shouted from the rooftops.  Its challenge must be embraced and its call must be heeded.   In a world unsure of its values, we need to listen to the Gospel with fresh ears.  In a world uncertain of where to turn for direction, we need to turn to the wisdom of God.  In a world too filled with violence, we need to invite the Prince of Peace into our lives.  None of these tremendous gifts of God or the Church will be make an impact unless it is expressed with enthusiasm and love.  We cannot afford only to be right; only to carry the truth.  Jesus was never satisfied with that.  He wanted that truth to be shared.  Every follower in his ministry was commissioned to be an agent to bring more followers.  They were to bring light to dark times.  He asks the same thing of those who claim him as Lord today.  Like those first men who left their nets on the shore of the Galilee, we must be in search for those who long for the word that will set them free.

We have the right content, a convincing message and the truth.  But what are we without love?  Do we share our message with passion?  Is it clear that we treasure what we believe?  Dare we be desperate for others to share in the peace we know?   If there were a medicine that could cure the pain of those who hurt the most, what would you do not to make sure that everyone could have it?  This Gospel, this people, this Body of Christ is that medicine for the whole world that awaits the healing promised by Jesus Christ. 

So this Lent, let us prepare our hearts again for the great gift of Christ giving his life on the cross and taking it up again from the tomb.  Let us be a people of fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  Let us reflect on the unfathomable depth of the story of the paschal mystery. 

But let us not be some far from the flame that we cannot feel its warmth.  Let us trust in a Spirit that has brought us so close to the flame that we can hold it only so long as it takes for us to share it.  For how could we have been given so much liberty unless it was to set people free?  How could we be given such hope unless it was to allow other to dream more boldly?  How could we be given such peace unless it was to soothe a troubled world?  And how could we be given such love unless it was to have others burn with the passion we have found in our God?

This Lent, if we dare to tell our story as the story of our God, we will travel from ash, to fire, to love.

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