Grace to you!
I welcome you to a special moment of grace. Lent is a special moment of grace.
On this first day of Lent, the day we are blessed with ashes, may we step back a little from the crowded parish ash blessings to reflect on what this event means for us.
Many are blessed with ashes on their foreheads. I will receive mine soon after this reflection. Generally, the minister would say these words taken from the Scripture: "Repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15) or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:19).
Those words shed light on what we are celebrating. It's a call to conversion. I suggest it's a reminder of our weaknesses and our brokenness. It's an invitation to renewal. Humility is a necessary RSVP for this call.
It isn't about putting us down before God. Instead, it's about setting us on the wheel of a renewed relationship with God. It's about raising us to glory. Tapping from the paradox of Christian glory, the way up is down. It's by a humble acknowledgment of our need for God's grace.
Ash Wednesday sets the ball rolling for an extended period of prayers, fasting, and almsgiving lasting for forty days. It sets the foundation right by making us aware of the first step to sincere conversion. Namely, being aware of our need and insufficiency. It is also a sense of our true worth and unworthiness before God.
Clearly, God meets those who recognize they need Him. Scripture says, "A humble, contrite heart, you [the Lord] will not reject" (Psalm 51:17).
Another way to look at this first day of Lent is: Through it, everyone, believer and nonbeliever, is brought back to the first demand for an invitation for a virtuous life. It's an ethical call on how to be good people. In this sense, Lent is for all people of goodwill.
As the day of Lent evolves, you will see how this general, ethical call for purification will culminate in a faith-based life built on a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I invite you to connect with me every day as we journey through these days of Lent. For our Spiritual Reading this Lent, I will recommend an article by Mark Searle titled “The Spirit of Lent” published in Assembly Volume 8:3 by the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy. It is a good read.
Also, how about focusing on the virtue of humility today? It's a beautiful virtue, foundational to the true spirit of Lent.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Ash Wednesday: Readings: Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2; Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .