Was there a good point made in the sermon you heard at Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday was not a Holy Day of Obligation, as all Sundays are.
For my part, I spoke briefly about the need for purification and cleansing during this sacred season, which the ancients referred to as a sacramentum. We enter into mystery during Lent. We prepare to go into the tomb with the Lord. We have to be ready to suffer and embrace the Cross when we say “No!” to our appetites and our passions, whether disordered or not. In the self-denial we suffer. We have to be aware of this fact and be disciplined about it. First we fast, then we feast. The mystery of Lent brings us to experience, in a season, the pattern of our lives. Passion… resurrection.
As a side note, last night we had a Sung Mass in the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite. This was at a church in a parish of three merged churches. It was the only evening Ash Wednesday Mass for the parish. Thus, some of the people from – let’s just say the rather more modernist nearby town – had a taste of “something old and something new”. Furthermore, the CCD class from the rather more modernist parish was there. It’ll be interesting to have some feedback about their experience.
Our pastor recommend we read the Passion narratives daily, cycling through the four Gospels repetitively. I’m going to try it!
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Almsgiving means giving of ourselves and our time and talent, as well as giving money, so people who are broke can still give alms. Turning away from worldly things. Fasting from things like the Internet.
The priest where I go is pretty liberal politically, but his Catholic teaching gets more traditional every year!
Not last night, but years ago I heard one of the best Ash Wednesday sermons ever. The priest was talking about how some people give up this or that and they often go back and forth over what is best to give up but in the end Christ wants us to give up our sins. In the end, that’s what Lent (and salvation for that matter) is all about.
Short and to the point. . .
Fr. Philip Neri, OP
I was at the day’s fourth Mass in the parish. It was said by a monsignor who is high up in the Archdiocesan administration.
He spoke at some length on mortification – even using the word itself. He exhorted people to go to confession and to participate in the works of mercy. He reminded us that we, being forgiven of much, ought to likewise forgive those who have sinned against us. Core teachings of the Church that would have been familiar to the Church Fathers. Things that I certainly didn’t hear in OF homilies for my first several years as a Catholic. Good to see that a man who has substantial responsibility in our particular Church is so well-disposed as to how to exercise it.
Our vicar is from India, and fairly hard to understand (unfortunately, I think the person next to me left after the distribution of the ashes because he commented multiple times about being annoyed by his accent). The homily was rather metaphorical, but I think this is the gist of what he said:
We are all cyclops. We have one eye. This eye is our ego (At this point, we realize he’s playing with the homonyms “eye” and “I”). Usually the first thing we do when we get up is think about what *I* want to do today. When we go to sleep we think about what *I* wished had happened, etc. Lent reminds us to make our day about God and others. The Gospel reading tells us how: give alms, pray, and fast, and don’t do those for the sake of your ego, but out of love. If we look we with eyes of love, we have two eyes, and that gives us depth perception so we can see how near or far we are from how we should be living.
When I give you the ashes, first I draw an I on your forehead, but then I cross out that I, and the shape becomes the cross. The cross is not about “I.” Jesus’ sacrifice was for others.
Father mentioned that ashes are generally a sign that something has gone horribly, tragically wrong. Picture returning to your house after a wildfire takes out your neighborhood. The ashes we receive are the ashes of palms, palms that represented the *false* hopes of those who hailed Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. They thought they were heralding a new secular ruler, come to free them from the Romans. False hopes soon turn to ash.
Yet Christ took these ashen hopes and transformed them to a symbol of mercy, of true hope, through the resurrection. The ashes are our sins, which if we take and offer them to Christ He will transform through his Grace into the means of our salvation.
From my priest who is orthodox (but careful on account of the Prelate): It’s Lent! That means it’s time to do battle! We wage war against the enemy, Lucifer, by receiving the sacraments regularly. Do you want to give him a right hook……..then GO TO CONFESSION!
Our priest suggested that rather than “give up” we “take on”–easy to remember and flexible in application.
We heard about a gentleman who shaved his head and revealed two inverted-cross tattoos. When asked about them, he proudly professed to be “Anti-Christ, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-God”. Then it was patiently explained that Catholics particularly revere the inverted cross because that is how Saint Peter, our first Pope, died. Martyred in this way, on his request, unworthy to suffer the same fate as Our Lord. The gentleman with the tattoos was quite disappointed, but went away with much on his mind.
For my two cents: http://www.seascatholic.org/Homilies/Feb1016AshWed.mp3
Wonderful, Fr. So glad you posted here. Your homilies always challenge us to take a look deep inside ourselves and seek what is necessary to change our lives and our hearts to be centered on Christ…to deepen our relationship with Him…to take that leap of faith that brings us to true conversion. Thank you for your priesthood and faithful ministry to so many of us who are forever changed by your gift.