Ash Wednesday, a Call to Repent
by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
National Catholic Church of America
The first reading for Ash Wednesday is from the book of Joel 2:12-19 with the following words, “The Lord says, turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your heart Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” What I believe we are being told is that we need to open ourselves up to being more compassionate and caring in our everyday lives.
We need to change our ways from being selfish and greedy and open ourselves up toward becoming more generous and forgiving.
“Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish”. Here God is telling us, very plainly, that he is not out to inflict vengeance and condemnation upon us but be infinitely merciful and forgiving.
So many people laugh and talk about what church leaders of all denominations have done or preached in the name of God and remark how that does not seem to be what Christ taught.
I have heard many say “They talk the talk but they do not walk the walk” meaning of course they preach the words but their actions are exactly opposite their words.
If we actually lived according to the teachings of Jesus Christ we would work diligently to bring about justice and peace for all the people on earth in order for us to actually have the promise from God found in Joel 2: 17-19 “The Lord’s Promises Restoration, Then the Lord will pity his people and jealously guard the honor of his land. The Lord will reply, “Look! I am sending you grain and new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy your needs. You will no longer be an object of mockery among the surrounding nations.”
In Matthew’s Gospel for Ash Wednesday we read “When you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you”.
Here again we are promised a reward for living our lives without seeking special recognition from others but by living our life for the greater glory of God.
The passage also instructs us to consider how we regard our possessions. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Everything we do in this life should be directed toward our Eternal life and not toward this fleeting existence on earth.
When the priest signs your forehead with the words “Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” It is meant to remind us of our mortality.
We are only here for a short time as we were reminded a few weeks ago when we read the book of Job where he said; “Remember that my life is but a breath” so we need to use our time here wisely in order to prepare ourselves for our eternal life.
There are so many opportunities available for us to serve God in this world today.
The guide I personally use is found in the Corporal Works of Mercy which tell us to; Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty, Clothe the naked, Shelter the homeless, Visit the sick, Visit those in prison, and Bury the dead.
God is going to judge us by our actions not our words or how many rosaries we prayed or how many times we go to church. God will consider how well we cared for all God’s children and not just for our own personal gratification.
Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians tells us; “We are ambassadors for Christ”
On this Ash Wednesday let the ashes remind us of the briefness of our lives here on earth and the frailty of our nature. Let us attempt, as much as possible, to become a fervent followers of Christ that others will recognize by our actions.
Let’s work fervently to seek peace and camaraderie between all of God’s children.
Let us live our life with compassion and forgiveness toward all we encounter so our actions speak louder than our words.
Christ taught us how we needed to live; all we need to do is live as He taught us.
Jesus made clear the will of the Father; He clarified the teachings of the Old Testament and gave us the New Covenant so all we have to do is live by it.
“LOVE THE LORD, YOUR GOD, WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART, SOUL,MIND AND BODY AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF” ..”LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”
I close with this prayer; “O Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, speak but the word and my soul shall be healed.” AMEN