Ash Wednesday – Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Today we begin the Lenten season, the 40 days of preparation for the celebration of the Easter Triduum. The liturgy reminds us, on the one hand, of God’s overwhelming mercy. As the entrance antiphon reads: “You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.” As Jesus told one mystic, “My Heart takes comfort in forgiving. I have no greater desire, no greater joy, than when I can pardon a soul.” Yet, our appreciation of His mercy must go hand in hand with the knowledge that we are the ones who have separated ourselves from God; we can only understand the depths of God’s mercy if we come face-to-face with the abyss of sin into which we have fallen.
For the next forty days, the reality of the cross must project itself onto our daily lives in a special and profound way, since it was on the cross that Christ atoned for our sins and showed His love for us. Hence, it is there too that we must find the meaning of our lives. Our vocation is a vocation to the cross, and there is no more opportune time to consider this than during Lent as we follow Christ on His journey to Calvary. As Padre Pio said, “I love the cross, and the cross alone.”
Today’s Gospel reminds us, over and over, that our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving must be sincere; we must truly seek Christ in all we do: as Fulton Sheen wrote, “The cruelest words in all of Scripture are, ‘They have received their reward.’”
As we begin our journey, we can take a close examination of our lives: how are we progressing on the path to holiness? Are we really aware of the depths of our misery, and the greatness of God’s mercy? What keeps us from drawing near to Him? As Saint Gemma Galgani wrote, “But Jesus, Jesus, it is to Him that I must be attached!” Are we attached to Him alone, and do we love Him as He loved us, on the Cross?
Today, let us ask for the grace, through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners and Our Lady of Sorrows, for the grace of true conversion, to really take advantage of this Lenten season to return to God and never leave Him again.