16 February 2010

Now is the day of salvation

Ash Wednesday 2010: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

We begin the Lenten season of 2010 with this declaration: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” An admonishment from Paul against receiving God's grace in vain, the Church in Corinth back then and the Church gathered here right now are urged to remember that our salvation through Christ is not only a subject for ancient history and a concern for the distant future but also a decision to be made NOW. Paul, an ambassador for Christ, writes, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” To choose reconciliation with the Father through His Son is the supreme act of humility, the recognition that we are completely dependent on His love for us—for our creation from ash, our re-creation out of an emptied tomb, and for our final rest in His kingdom. We receive the ashes of Lent this morning to celebrate our dependency, to mark our mortality. And, most importantly, to show ourselves as pilgrims on the way to Easter morning. 

To help us arrive properly prepared in Jerusalem on Easter morning, forty days of the Church year are set aside so that we might be summoned daily to the work of repentance. And so that we do not fall into the trap of believing that the work of repentance is merely a matter for the intellect alone but the work of the body as well, we are called upon to fast, to pray, to give alms, to do the good work of Christ among his people. Mind, heart, hands—all that we are must be reconciled. To his disciples, Jesus lays down a challenge: resist the temptation to play at being repentant; reject the performance art of public repentance; do not follow the hypocrites in drawing attention to yourself for the sake of pious praise. Instead, truly repent; receive God's forgiveness in secret; go out into the world clean, smiling, joyful. Wash your face, anoint your head, and receive all the Lord has to give you.

“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

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