That ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and that they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice? Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year, and are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. God’s divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance. May each of us have a truly blessed, grace filled season of Lent.
That Jesus calls us to love one another? This past Friday we celebrated Valentine’s Day. It made me think of when I was teaching some Sudanese children Catechesis in Buffalo’s inner city. In our conversations, I learned that they had never heard the words “I love you” nor had they ever told their parents that they loved them. This shocked me. What many of us consider a given was something they had never heard in their life. It simply was not part of their culture. Upon reflection I thought about the people in my life, my friends, colleagues, teachers, and even my own extended family. Was there love there? Yes. Did we say “I love you?” Yes and No. While we never said “I love you” verbally, we said it non-verbally in many ways – in our deeds and actions. In talking with these children, I let them know that they were very much loved, for while they may have never heard the words verbally, their parents say it to them every day by keeping them safe, wanting a bright future for them, putting a roof over their heads, and so on. And the children too, can say “I love you” by doing simply things, like doing the dishes without being asked or making their beds. As we read in 1 John 3:18, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” As baptized Christians, we are called to be instruments of love here on earth, through our deeds and actions, which are often unspoken. So whether it be a smile, holding the door open for someone, or dropping off some food for the poor, it’s these simple things that say to our brothers and sisters that they are loved without saying a single word.
That each of us are “blessed”? When we think of “blessed”, we are usually talking about something good, something great, something that other people would want. Yet in looking at the people Jesus labels as blessed, they seem to be the exact opposite of what the world tells us we should be aspiring for – the poor in spirit (those who have nothing in this life but their faith in God); those who mourn (not just those who have experienced death, but those who struggle with sin in their lives and “mourn” over the fact that they struggle with that), and the meek (those who seem powerless, insignificant to the world). Jesus is not giving us a pep-talk, but rather he is trying to change our perspective about what it means to be “blessed”. Jesus invites us to recognize that Blessed are you when even in the midst of all that is going on in your life, all the trials and tribulations you suffer and endure. Blessed are you when you realize God hasn’t abandoned you. Blessed are you when you realize this isn’t some divine punishment. Blessed are you when you see God is there with you in the midst of it all. Blessed are you when you endure with that
confidence of faith, knowing the love of God sustains you. All too often the world thinks that when we win the lottery, THEN we will be “blessed.” Our faith, and the fact that Jesus died for us reveals how blessed we truly are.
That the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a relatively ancient celebration? The Church at Jerusalem observed the feast as early as the first half of the fourth century, and likely earlier. The feast celebrates the presentation of Christ in the temple at Jerusalem on the 40th day after His birth. Just as we process in at the beginning of mass with lit blessed candles, the light of the candles symbolizes Christ, who is the Light of the World. This light symbolizes the infant Jesus, our Saviour, who entered into the temple with Mary and Joseph. God, our Father, who is the Source of all light, revealed to Simeon the Light of revelation to the nations. That was some 2020 years ago. So how are we to celebrate this feast today? We are reminded that we are to always bring that light of Christ we received at our own baptism to those who live in darkness. I admit, this is not always easy. It is with God’s grace that we are called to be the light of Christ today in our words, deeds, and actions, in our parish, in our families, and in our communities. Let us pray that, together, we may be the light of Christ for others – for each other!
From Our Pastor