Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we enter the great penitential season of Lent, a season that draws our attention to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For many, this season is about “giving something up” (in today’s technological world that would be social media on our phones or limiting our phone time in general). However, you can give anything up or even take something on. Whatever your Lenten fast is this year, I encourage to do it, and to do it well with the help of God’s grace.
Fasting though is only one-third of the Lenten theme, we must also pray and give alms. Since prayer is our encounter with God, adding times to pray to our daily routine would be extremely beneficial to each and every one of us. A simple addition of prayer is signing up for Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or a nearby parish. Spending that extra hour in prayer each week will for sure increase your encounter with God. I really want to add more prayer time to my day, not just during these next 40 days, so that’s why I am working on adding the Liturgy of the Hours to my daily prayer routine.
For alms, if you have a favorite charity or don’t give to your parish, increasing your financial donations during the next 40 days will assist you in meeting the alms obligation during Lent. Since I am getting married in seven months, I am going to continue to clean out my closets and give away any clothes I don’t wear to shelters or St. Joseph the Worker, a local shelter here in the Phoenix area. Please don’t forget, there are many people less fortunate that need our assistance.
To help us prepare for this Ash Wednesday and Lent of this year, I now turn our attention to 7 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Saint John Paul II. These quotes are come from his homilies and messages given to the Church and the world on the Ash Wednesday’s of his amazing Papacy –
1. “Today the Church lays great stress on this truth, confirmed by the history of every man. Remember that “to dust you shall return”. Remember that your life on earth has a limit!… Therefore the message of Ash Wednesday is expressed with the words of St. Paul: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:20-21). Collaborate with him!”
2. “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. This invitation, which we find at the beginning of Jesus’ preaching, introduces us into the Lenten season, a time to be dedicated in a special way to conversion and renewal, to prayer, to fasting and to works of charity. In recalling the experience of the chosen people, we too set out as it were to retrace the journey that Israel made across the desert to the Promised Land. We too will reach our goal; after these weeks of penance, we will experience the joy of Easter. Our eyes, purified by prayer and penance, will be able to behold with greater clarity the face of the living God, to whom man makes his own pilgrimage on the paths of earthly life.”
3. “During Lent, we prepare to relive the Paschal Mystery, which sheds the light of hope upon the whole of our existence, even its most complex and painful aspects. Holy Week will again set before us this mystery of salvation in the evocative rites of the Easter Triduum. Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. In particular, may this Lent be a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity.”
4. “‘Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6: 4, 6, 18). Jesus’ words are addressed to each one of us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. We begin it with the imposition of ashes, an austere penitential gesture very dear to Christian tradition. It emphasizes the awareness of sinners as they stand before the majesty and holiness of God. At the same time, it demonstrates readiness to accept and to transform into concrete choices adherence to the Gospel.”
5. “The Church lives Christ’s redemptive sacrifice throughout the liturgical year. However, in the season of Lent we would like to immerse ourselves in it in a particularly intense way, as the Apostle urges us: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). In this important season, the treasures of Redemption, merited for us by Christ crucified and risen, are dispensed to us in a most particular way. Thus the Psalmist’s exclamation: “Create in me a clean heart … and put a new and right spirit within men becomes at the beginning of Lent a strong call to conversion.”
6. “Why does the Church place ashes on our foreheads today? Why does she remind us of death? Death which is the effect of sin! Why?…To prepare us for Christ’s Passover. For the paschal mystery of the Redeemer of the world. Paschal mystery means what we profess in the Creed: “On the third day he rose again”!…Yes. Today we need to hear the “you are dust and to dust you will return” of Ash Wednesday, so that the definitive truth of the Gospel, the truth about the Resurrection, will unfold before us: believe in the Gospel.”
7. “By inviting us through the discipline of Lent to tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ, the Church makes us realize that the Christian life involves detachment from superfluous goods, and the acceptance of a poverty which sets us free, and enables us to discover God’s presence and to welcome our brothers and sisters with an ever more active solidarity and in an ever wider fellowship.”
So as we step into this Lenten season, I pray that each of us upholds our penances and sacrifices with a fervent desire to grow closer to Our Lord Jesus and his Catholic Church. Ask for the intercession of the Holy Mother of God to give you the strength to offer up the next 40 days to Our Lord. Pray with the Saints, many who knew the day-to-day meaning of penance and sacrifice.
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