My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we set out once again on the spiritual journey of Lent. This is a journey of love, a journey of forgiveness, and a journey of joy.
Lent is all about God’s love for us. And Lent is a way of helping us to grow in our love for God.
God is our heavenly Father. This is what Jesus tells us today in the Gospel that we just heard. God is our heavenly Father and he loves each one of us with a Father’s love.
But sometimes, we make things harder for ourselves — more harder than God wants them to be. I think we all understand that. It is just human nature. But God wants to give us the strength and the grace to share in his divine nature.
God did not make us to stay like we are. He made us to always be getting better. He made us to be saints, to be holy. He made us to be like Jesus. That is why Jesus came — to show us the how to live.
The real way to live.
But, as we know, on this journey, sometimes we wander off the path, we lose our way, get tangled up in things. Some of the times, we want everything to be our way. We try to make ourselves always feel good.
So, we need a way to grow and get stronger so that we are less selfish and more open to God’s plan for our lives.
And for that, obviously, we need to ask God to help us. And we also have to work harder, ourselves.
That’s why today, on this Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent, God is telling us that we can always come home. We can always start again
As we heard in the first reading today: “Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart.”
God’s love for each one of us means that his door is always open to us. It means he’s always waiting for us. That is what forgiveness means.
St. Paul tells us today in the second reading of today’s Mass: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
Be reconciled to God. So, what does that mean, in a practical way? It means come home! Come back to God!
And we can do that because Jesus Christ makes it possible.
Jesus, as we just heard, had no sin in his life — and yet he suffered for our sake.
I think this Lent, it would be great if we try to pray about that. How much does God loves us? So much that he sent his only begotten Son to save us. To show us the way back to the Father.
So we can see that God’s vision is just love. God wants us to love him and to love one another. Love him like a Father and love others like our brothers and sisters. It is a beautiful way to live.
The challenge we all have is that love is not easy! We all know that. We have to ask God to help us, and as I said before, we have to work hard ourselves.
We can think now, these days, about the athletes at the Olympic games. How many years of training, how many sacrifices do they make day in and day out so that they can become the best in the world?
Christian life is exactly the same way. We need to be training ourselves every day how to be less selfish and how to be more loving.
And Jesus today gives us three ways to grow and get better, three ways to train ourselves so that we can grow in holiness, that we can get the gold medal that is, obviously, going to heaven.
It’s not just a medal that we’re going to get — that’s beautiful — but for us it’s even much better because we are talking about total happiness in heaven.
So, three things, he talks about fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
So, in these 40 days of Lent, let us just try to find simple ways to do these things every day. Talking to God in prayer, learning to live with less so that we will have more to give to others.
And we should do them with joy. Joy because we know that this is how God wants us to live. Joy because we are training to be saints! Because with the help of the grace of God we are going to win the gold medal of going to heaven.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, let us open our hearts to God during these 40 days.
We go on this journey together, I’ll be praying for you, so please pray for me that I can also take advantage of this wonderful time to grow in my personal journey of love.
And let us ask Mary Our Blessed Mother for her intercession — let us ask her to help make this Lent, for each one of us, a journey of love, forgiveness, and joy!
1. Readings: Joel 2:12-18; Ps. 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; Matt. 6:1-6; 16-18.