Ash Wednesday Reflection

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

~ An excerpt from the late Bishop Brian Leo Hennessey, CR’s homily for Ash Wednesday
These word which are said as we receive ashes to mark the beginning of Lent sum up what Lent is all about. All of us are familiar with the return ticket which takes us to our destination and back again. In Israel this is called shub, which is also the word for repentance. A happy coincidence since repentance is a call to turn away from sin and return to our God, or as we hear on Ash Wednesday when our foreheads are signed with ashes, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” The prophet Joel in the 1st reading on Ash Wednesday tells us “Render your hearts and not your garments and return to the Lord your God.” And St. Paul urges, “We implore you, in Christ’s name be reconciled to God.” We cannot be satisfied with external signs only, we must “rend our hearts, and not our garments”.
Lent is a time for us to examine not just what we are doing but what we are being, that is, how much of what we do and why we do it is motivated by our love of Jesus and the call of our discipleship. The pharisee at the front of the synagogue could, and did, boast of doing all the right things but it was the publican at the back of synagogue who went away justified having rent his heart. During this Lent let us try to identify whatever is pharisaical in us and rend our hearts, not our garments.