Lent begins today and the Gospel reading from the Gospel of Matthew warns us three times about the danger of hypocrisy (in acts of charity, praying and fasting). Funny isn’t it? Many of us will go to church today and receive ashes on our foreheads which we wear throughout the day in a very public way. Isn’t such an act of public piety not just ‘showy’ but also claiming we are better than others? Aren’t we being hypocritical- somehow advertising ourselves as being so holy or, at least, better than those our ‘ash-less’ friends? While some may think this, nothing is further from the truth.
Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, a liturgical season in which the entire Church is called to reflect on basic relationships which make us human: our connection to God (through prayer), creation (fasting and penances); and the poor (how do we help those in need?). The wearing of ashes is not a symbol of being a member of some spiritual ‘elect’ but a public testimony of the shortness of life (one prayer said when ashes are dispensed goes “remember that dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return”) and our ongoing need for conversion (a turning every more to God). Ashes are not a judgement on anyone else! So during Lent it might be helpful to reflect on a few questions: How am I using the gift of life? Do I value my friends and family? Do I take time to pray and ask what God wants? How am I sharing my resources with the poor? Do I spend so much time on the internet that I neglect the beauty of creation? These might be tough questions, but necessary ones to help us honestly review our live and make changes.
During this time of Lent the focus will be on looking at how we pray, how we use God’s gift of creation and how generous we are to the poor. The Mission Doctors’ Association is a wonderful place to show concern for God’s poor through prayer and monetary donations.
God bless and Happy Lenten Journey.
Brother John Kiesler, OFM