Homily for Ash Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016
Here we are again, Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent. It is the season of preparation for Easter, the most glorious event of the Christian calendar, when we give glory to God for his gift of eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ
But what do we need in order to celebrate? We need a time of reflecting on what we have and have not done throughout the year, how we have lived and how we can live better, to walk closer to our God and his people. Let us look at what today's readings are calling us to do:
1: God is calling us to Repentance; return to me with your whole heart says the Lord in Joel. We must be like the prodigal son, who after seeing his situation came to his senses and in humility returned to his father. It doesn't matter what kind of life you've been living, God is that Father in the story, always out on the road looking for his son to return home where he belongs. God is waiting for us to return home to him, where we belong.
2: God is calling us to Conversion; Paul is telling the Corinthians that they are ambassadors for Christ. There are always two types of ambassadors, the kind that push their own agenda and those who push the agenda of the one whom they are representing. Conversion comes from repentance and a determined will to change with the help of the Spirit of God. St. Paul says that today is the day for conversion. This is Lent's main message: today is the day to be reconciled to God, before it's too late.
3: God gives us the plan on how to live this season (and all sesons); Jesus gives us the plan in today's Gospel. He says to live humbly, to live a life that is pleasing to God. During this season of Lent, we are called to Pray, Fast, and give Alms. And as we do these, we are not to be like those of the world who shout from the mountaintops, as it were, in order that all might see their works and give them praise. We are to do these things humbly and without fanfare, so that our Father in Heaven will see and he will give us our compensation.
Let me give you an example of this principle in action: In the Republican debates the other night, Donald Trump was not there to debate the issues. Why? Because he was out at a fundraiser for veterans. Now he made it perfectly clear to all who would listen about how great a guy he is because he was able to raise 6 million dollars for the veteran's organizations. He shouted from the rooftops about his generosity. I say to you that he has received his reward already (the applause of his supporters). Now there is a man in New York who works in a very uptown, very expensive hair salón. He is much in demand as a stylist and works 12 hours days, sometimes 6 days a week. He was photographed, by a passerby who happen to know who he was, cutting the hair of a homeless person on the streets of New York on his day off. Asked why he does this, his response was that these people deserve to be treated like people. He receives no money from the homeless for his services, just thanks and a smile. God sees those types of works with a totally different eye than the works that are touted and shouted from the rooftops of the city.
Let us begin our Lent by receiving ashes on our forehead to remind us of our frailty and our dependence on God for all things. Let us all repent, convert, and live the life God is calling us to live.