My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we begin our Lenten journey to Easter. In our second reading today we heard St. Paul tell us:
Behold! Now is a very acceptable time! Behold! Now is the day of salvation!
So today is the day for us to return God with all our hearts.
This season of Lent reminds us that we are pilgrims in this world. We are following Jesus Christ through the desert of this world to the promised land of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Our destination is eternal life. But, my brothers and sisters: Our eternity depends on what we do in this life. Our eternity depends on our personal actions and our correspondence with the grace that God gives us.
So Lent is a time for penance, for purification, and for conversion. We need to be really honest with ourselves: Are we growing in our faithfulness to Jesus Christ? Are we advancing in our desire for holiness? Are we being generous in sharing our faith and spreading the love of God in our daily lives?
In a few minutes, we will put on the sign of ashes. It is a biblical sign of penance and humility before God.
When we present ourselves to the minister for the ashes, the minister will say to us either: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return!”
We are invited on Ash Wednesday to remember our mortality. We are invited to remember that we are only here on this earth for just a little while — and then we are gone. We are dust. And to dust we will return. That is why it is so essential for each of us to repent and believe in the Gospel.
Jesus holds the words of eternal life for us. Only his Gospel saves us. Because the Gospel reminds us — that we are more than dust.
We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are his children. God’s beloved sons and daughters!
St. Paul tells us in our second reading today: “Be reconciled to God!” That means we need to open ourselves to God’s grace, to allow his love to work in our lives.
We do that through the disciplines of Lent — through almsgiving, through prayer and through fasting. These disciplines are meant to open us, to make us more available to God.
But Jesus reminds us in our Gospel reading for today: We have to make sure we perform our righteous deeds for the right reason.
We should not pray or fast or give alms in order to get noticed to be congratulated by our neighbors. We need to have pure intentions. We should to do these things out of a sincere love for God.
And that is the beautiful promise that Jesus makes to us today. We can have a deep personal relationship with our Father. We can talk to him and listen for his voice in our hearts. We can offer our fasting as a sacrifice out of love for him. We can give to others as an expression of our love for him.
Jesus tells us in a beautiful way: “Your Father, who sees what is hidden, will repay you!”
So let us make this Lent a time of penance, purification and conversion. Through our Lenten sacrifices and observances, let us renew our hope in God, who is rich in mercy and forgiveness.
Let’s ask Mary, our Blessed Mother for her intercession during this Lenten season, this day of salvation. Let’s ask her for the courage of conversion, so that we can gain pardon for our sins and newness of life, after the image of her divine Son.
1. Readings (Ash Wednesday, Year B): Joel 2:12-18; Ps. 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18.