Theme: REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL
- Joel 2:12-18;
- Psalm 50 (51):3-6.12-14. 17. R/ v. 3;
- 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
- Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18
Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season of forty days. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, because the Sundays of Lent are not days of penance!
Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter! Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the baptism of our Catechumens and the renewal of our own baptism on Easter Vigil Night!
Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion! The word conversion comes from a Latin word meaning an about turn, a U turn, a 180 degree turn! A turning away from sin, from the world, from oneself and a turning to God and neighbor!
The gospel today tells us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor, not for show, as the hypocrites do, but for penance, repentance, and conversion!
The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us to repent. More importantly, the first reading tells us to repent because God is merciful. He will forgive us our sins!
The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm asks God to forgive our sins. More importantly, the responsorial psalm asks God to give us a new heart so that we will not sin anymore!
The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas (vv. 3-6) ask God to forgive us our sins. The third and fourth stanzas (vv. 12-14. 17) ask God to give us a new heart so that we will not sin anymore!
The second reading follows the theme of the gospel. The second reading tells us to be reconciled to God, because God has already reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ! And the time for reconciliation is now! The favorable time is now! The time for salvation is now!
During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor to help us do penance, repent and convert. The word Convert means to turn.
Prayer helps us to turn to God. Fasting helps us to turn away from ourselves and to turn to God, because fasting helps us in our prayers! Fasting also helps us to turn to our neighbor, because the money saved from fasting is given to the poor! Almsgiving to the poor and the needy helps us to turn away from the world and to turn to our neighbor.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to turn away from sin, from the world, from oneself, and to turn to God and neighbor!
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to prepare for the celebration of Easter, particularly for the baptism of our catechumens on Easter Vigil Night, and the renewal of our own baptism on Easter Vigil Night!
We shall now proceed to bless and distribute the ashes! The ashes are a sign of our penance and repentance! As the priest distributes the ashes he says, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (cf. Mk 1:15) In the old Missal the priest says, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”
Repentance is not only turning away from sin, but it is also turning away from the world and from oneself. Believing in the gospel is not only being faithful to the gospel, but having faith in the gospel! Having faith in Jesus Christ and having faith in God!
The second formula is “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (cf. Gn 3:19) This was what God said to Adam when he sinned against God!
Without God we are indeed dust and death, but with God we are spirit and life and eternal life! That is why we have to “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”!
We shall now proceed with the blessing and distribution of the ashes! A happy Lent to all of you!